Holiday Saving

Save Money during the holidays!

What? Save? Now? Impossible! right?!
It might take planning, but it is possible! Shopping on a budget during the holidays can be difficult but you can do it!  You don’t have to eliminate gift giving, just be strategic. Ideas 7 and 8 may be the BEST yet!

1. Set up a holiday budget

If you want to keep a tight rein on your spending this holiday season, the first step is to create a budget and make up your mind you are going to stick to it.  Don’t forget to account for the little things too, like Christmas cards and stamps.

2. Make a shopping list (and stick to it)

After you’ve set your holiday budget, make a list of all the people you want to buy gifts for: Focus on how much you can spend on each one, not on what you want to buy.  Check your “gift” list twice!  Cut your budget by cutting down your list, or be creative with some of the people on your list (For example, baking for friends is a great way to save, and sometimes is more appreciated)

3. Go with Secret Santa, potlucks and e-cards

If you have a large family, buying gifts and cooking for everyone can force you to spend more than you can afford and take the joy out of giving.  A fun, easy way to get around that is to plan what is commonly called a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. Everyone draws a name without telling who it is and buys just for that person. Usually, there is a moderate spending limit imposed, and the element of surprise at gift-exchange time adds to the fun.

Or, get with relatives and make a list that covers the entire family but doesn’t leave anyone feeling like they have to shop for every niece and nephew.

For holiday meals, plan potlucks. By having everyone contribute, you will save a lot of money and gobs of time and energy.

Holiday E-cards are another way to save money and time. Rather than buying holiday cards and paying 55 cents for postage for each one, find some nice e-cards online. They’re a free or fairly inexpensive way to send a holiday “hello” to far-flung family and friends. If you have an artistic flair, you can create your own holiday cards.

4. Pay cash

One way to avoid holiday debt is to pay cash for everything. Once your holiday budget is finalized, take that amount of money out of the bank and stick to your spending plan.  Once that money is gone, you’re done shopping.

Of course, you can’t use cash for shopping online. In that case, Freeman recommends using a prepaid card. Prepaid cards can be bought at Walmart, convenience stores and many other retail outlets. Prepaid cards limit your spending to the amount that is loaded onto the card. If the card is loaded with $X, that’s all you can spend. Prepaid cards are a great tool for tracking and limiting your spending.

5. Avoid last-minute shopping

Get an early start on your shopping!  Many of us are guilty of running out for gifts at the last minute and “panic shopping” which always results in paying too much.

6. Take advantage of special sale days
There are a few days during the holiday shopping season when deals abound:

  • Amazon Prime Day kicks off on Oct. 13.
  • Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
  • Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Free Shipping Day, on Dec. 14, is the day hundreds of stores offer free shipping with no minimum order, plus other special deals.

7. Give the gift of your time

If you want to give someone a gift but can’t afford to buy anything, consider giving the gift of your time. You could baby-sit or walk the dog for a friend with an overloaded schedule.  An elderly relative might appreciate someone to run errands, do some housework or to take them to an appointment or out for lunch.  Handmade gifts are nice, too. If you’re already baking cookies for your family, making an extra batch for someone on your list is pretty cheap.

8. Thoughtful gifts outshine expensive ones

Some people are hard to buy for. They’ve reached a point where they have everything they need. This gives you an opportunity to be creative and come up with a thoughtful, simple gift that is also inexpensive.  It could be a framed photo of a special memory, an engraved letter opener, tickets for an event or show, a decorative pillow or something beautiful from a local antique mart or flea market.  A night out for the two of you or a special homemade meal. 

Bottom line

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and overspend. But the thrill of giving nice gifts and hosting big parties and fancy Christmas dinners is fleeting compared with the stress that comes later, when you have to pay for it all.  By planning ahead, saving money and sticking to a budget, you can avoid debt and keep your spirits up long after the holiday lights go out. 

There’s lots of great ideas online of ways to save, one of which,