All of us, I’m sure, are busy shopping and planning for gifts for all the people we care about. In the process, we don’t want to end up in a situation where we are happy for just one month and but are left paying December’s credit card bill throughout the next year. So here is my list of money-saving tips for the holidays. A lot of us have smart phones and there is an app for pretty much everything. With a little planning you can save money, reduce stress and have a fun-filled holiday.
- Make a budget and stick to it: If you have already made a holiday budget and been saving for it throughout the year, excellent! If not, make a budget now and include everything.
- Make a gift plan: Create a gift plan with the list of all recipients and ideas for gifts. If you don’t have ideas, write down their interests, which might lead you to find something. Include a maximum dollar amount. As with everything these days, there are many apps for creating and tracking a gift list. Pick one with good reviews and update it as you shop so that you won’t lose track of it.
- Give gifts only for the kids in the family.
- Comparison shop: Know prices before you get out of the house. If you have to go on a “pre-shopping” trip, so be it. Don’t buy anything on this pre-shopping trip. Just note down the prices for all the gifts in your list and go home and check the prices online along with how much it costs for shipping. This will give you a better idea of the price range and the best place to buy. There are several websites that allow you to track the price for the items on your list. I use Camel Camel Camel to track Amazon prices. Don’t forget to get points either using your credit card or using an app like Checkpoints that offers points for just checking in.
- Look for deals and sales: If you are buying online, Google [store name + "coupon"]. You will end up with some coupons. Even if it is just for free shipping, you are saving money. Shop on Free Shipping Days to get any minimum purchases to get free shipping. Make use of the holiday events like the BabysRUs first Christmas to score some free stuff for yourself or to gift.
- Buy in bulk: For commonly used items like holiday treats or baking supplies, try to buy in bulk along with a neighbor, family or a friend.
- Homemade gifts: Instead of buying gifts, make your own.
- Don’t be afraid to re-gift: This is a very personal decision. If you feel comfortable with the idea and you have a perfectly good gift that is just not for you, consider gifting it to someone who will make use of it. Save all your receipts in one place in case you have to return something. Apps like OneReceipt or Shoeboxed can help you keep your receipts organized.
- Give time: Give your time instead of money or a gift.
- Get a part time job: If you can spare some time, consider getting a part-time job in a department store. You could make some money for the holidays and also make use of the employee discounts for all your gifts.
- Wrapping paper: Instead of buying wrapping paper, make your own with your kid’s artwork.
- Make ornaments: Similar to wrapping paper, instead of buying expensive ornaments, make ornaments from your kid’s artwork or with some meaningful photos.
- Food drives: Instead of office gift exchanges, suggest a food drive where you can bring canned and non-perishable food for the local food bank. This won’t save much money, but at least you are not stuck with buying a lame gift for a coworker you don’t even know very well.
- Pot luck: For parties (whether you are attending or hosting) suggest pot luck instead of just one person doing all the cooking and cleaning. It can save serious time and money.
- Pick your parties: Attend the parties that are more meaningful to you and skip the ones from an acquaintance or coworker you don’t know well.
- Plan your vacations: Traveling a day earlier or later can save a lot of money.
- Skimp on outdoor lighting: Consider going light with the lighting. You can also use LED lights. They have significantly lower energy consumption so you won’t get stuck with a humongous power bill in January. You could also change regular bulbs to colored ones to add a festive effect and leave it at that.
- Don’t replicate your parents: This is one of the mistakes I make, not with just holidays, but in general. I forget that it took my parents probably 50 years to collect all the stuff they have. I am just starting out, so there is no need to have it all the first time.
- Buy throughout the year: It is not possible to do this for this year, but the best time to shop for Christmas is the week after Christmas when everything Christmas-related goes on clearance. Stock up on stuff that won’t get spoiled — decorations, ornaments, gift wrapping and even gifts.
- Buy gift cards using the holiday deals and give yourself a gift too: Holidays are a great time to buy gift cards at a discount. I stock up on gift cards for my own use the following year during this time.
What are your favorite money-saving tips? Do you have a weakness or do you always plan well?
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