There is not a bad time to start looking for ways to save money, especially during the holiday season. AHS has tips on how you can save this time of year.
Don’t wait until next year to start planning how to save money during the holidays — there’s still time to make wise financial decisions now! One way to ensure the holiday spirit stays alive this season? Don’t go off the deep end when it comes to spending. Here are some of our top holiday money-saving tips.
Create a Budget
Only you know what you can reasonably afford to spend on your holiday budget for gatherings, gifts, food and parties from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- Track spending from previous holidays. This might be the best example of what not to do. How much were your holiday expenses last year, for example?
- How much do you have available to spend now? (This is where that voice in your head is telling you that you should have been putting away a little out of each paycheck all year long.)
- Go through the upcoming holidays in your head, writing down everything you expect to do and everything you expect to buy. What’s a realistic price for each item?
- With the money you have, is this estimated total possible? If not, it’s time to start figuring out how to save money for the holidays.
- What is the number that you are comfortable with? When you arrive at that figure, etch it in stone, and don’t back off of it.
- How should the money be divided up? Break the total into categories like food, decorations, gifts and travel.
Be sane. The holiday season is known to be the time to go overboard — but it doesn’t have to be. Think realistically about the following:
- Look at the number of gatherings you are planning on attending and what it will to cost to attend. Are all of these necessary? Maybe some of the gatherings could be rotated — one year here, the next year there. Or maybe it’s time to bow out gracefully.
- How about a potluck? If you are hosting a holiday gathering, contact all who are attending and come up with a plan for each person to bring part of the meal.
- Look at that special gift that that special someone has his or her heart set on. If it is over the gift budget, don’t be afraid to tell him or her, but offer to contribute your gift allowance toward the purchase of it. Or better still, you could go in with someone else on the purchase and you will both save money.
- Who are all these people you buy gifts for? If you only see them once a year to hand them a gift, odds are you don’t really know them well enough to know what to give them. Does it really make sense to buy a gift for someone you don’t know, who will probably not get any use out of it, anyway?
Focus on the Kiddos
The holidays are a magical time for kids. If you are going to a family gathering, or a gathering of friends where kids will be included, why not just get gifts for the kids? Set a value on the gifts, and a number of gifts, so everyone will be on the same page. If you’re not totally comfortable giving up all the other gifts, consider these ideas instead:
- Set a reasonable price limit for adult gifts, if you don’t want to forgo them altogether.
- Draw names ahead of time, so only one gift needs to be purchased.
- Games can be played so that each person brings one small gift, and then have a drawing or some other game to distribute them (like “Dirty Santa” or “White Elephant”).
- Gift cards get a bad rap, but you can set a limit on the value and let everyone bring a gift card to be put in a box and blindly drawn out. The challenge comes by finding an unusual or exotic place to get your gift card. Make it fun — everyone gets their invested money back in the end.
Become a Shopping Pro
There are many ways to make your budget stretch. When it comes to saving money during the holidays, everyone knows about Black Friday sales, right? If that’s not your bag, however, there are other ways to find incredible bargains:
- Apps are now the way to shop and to be notified when an item you’re looking for goes on sale.
- Many stores give huge discounts for displaying their weekly ad or coupon on your cell phone when you check out.
- Shopping websites can save a lot of money throughout the entire year. Simply be patient and watch for sales. Pay attention to the shipping, though. The best deals are the ones with free shipping.
- Speaking of websites, if you go through certain rebate sites first before reaching your final shopping destination online, you can easily rack up a lot of cash back.
Consider a Homemade Holiday
It’s great to get a gift and know that your friend or relative had you in mind when they picked it up at the store. It’s altogether different to know that person spent time, and maybe talent and skill, to make that gift for you. Consider giving these homemade gifts:
- If you are artistic, paintings, sketches or drawings make great gifts. Keep it small, though.
- Framed photographs of snapshots with a connection to the recipient make memorable gifts.
- Food, such as jars of fruit, vegetables or salsa, along with baked goods always go over well.
- Don’t forget about one of your greatest assets: your time. Offer to help with home projects or babysit, and you just may become recognized as the top gift-giver around!
Holiday financial stress takes away from the enjoyment of the season. Why not do without it this year?