The holidays bring a lot of extra spending. Everyone wants to partake in the festivities, whether it is gift giving or holiday parties. But just because you want to spoil your friends and family, does not mean your holidays should leave your bank account dry. Here are some tips on how to enjoy the holiday season, without breaking your piggy bank.
1. Budget, budget, budget
Budgets are not fun to think about, and really who wants to sit there and micro-organize her money when she could be out enjoying a holiday party or snuggling up with a good book and hot chocolate? Despite that, creating a budget will help you make it through the holiday season. You need to start by understanding your overall budget. Use WISER’s budget worksheet to help you with this step. Once you know your monthly and annual budgets, you can make decisions on how much you can afford to spend this holiday season. How much extra money do you have this month? Can you make up for it in January? Set an overall holiday budget which includes gift purchases, travel funds, and items for holiday parties, all without dipping into your retirement savings!
Next, make a list of everyone you plan to buy gifts for. Based on your budget for the ENTIRE holiday season, decide on how much you can spend for each person. Do not over spend just because a person is particularly important. Holidays are not about the amount of money you spend, but the love expressed in the thoughts behind your gifts. As you start buying gifts, you can readjust the budgets for each person as you find deals on items. We recommend that you also pay with cash. If you only bring the amount of cash budgeted for the gift, you cannot outspend! For help on keeping track of your spending, check out WISER’s “Keep Track of Your Spending” Fact Sheet.
2. Use technology to help you find the best deals!
Instead of spending time to go in store to find a gift, consider buying items online where you can easily compare prices across stores. Buying online will also save you money on gas because you do not have to drive there and the circle the parking lot for 20 minutes hoping to find a spot. Many retailers also offer free shipping during the holidays. Still love the experience of browsing in a store? Then try downloading an app like GasBuddy to help find the cheapest gas near you.
You can also save on postage, printing, and cards by sending e-cards instead of traditional mail. There are tons of free, cute holiday e-cards to which you can add your own personal message! Smilebox even has options for you to upload your own photos, so you can still send that family portrait, as a free e-card.
3. It’s time to embrace DIY projects.
We’re not all crafty and creative so it can be difficult to find ways to create your own gifts and decorations, but it can help you save a lot of money. Think of a particular skill of yours and find ways to employ it in making gifts. If you love baking, give someone cookies instead of a store bought present. If you have a lot of great pictures, make someone a photo album. Coupons for activities with the person later are a great gift and easy way to save money because you have time to save for the activity! Want more tips for
gifting? Check out this article.
Decorating can also take a lot of money. Lights a beautiful, but take a fair amount of energy, and thus money. Scale your displays back to save on electricity costs. Consider ditching the live Christmas tree. Buying one each year adds up. Instead, invest in a fake tree that you do not have to replace for a long time. Here is a tip for keeping that great evergreen smell: Christmas tree vendors will give you branches they trim from their trees for free! You can put these in vase and have the tree smell, without the tree cost. Click on the image to the right for more DIY decorative projects!
4. Prepare for next year!
Treat your holiday budget like your retirement. You should add a little money each month so that the gift buying next year is easier. $20 a month equates to $240 to spend for the holiday! How much easier would your budgeting be then? Also, think about buying gifts throughout the year. If some item goes on sale, you could save more money by buying it in March and keeping it rather than waiting to buy everything all in one month.
Want more tips on how to save this season? Check out this article.
Happy holidays and happy saving!