Saving Money Around the Holidays
Lights, cards, a tree, parties, gifts. The holiday list goes on. All these things can add up quickly and, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to overspend. Here are eight tips to help you save some money this holiday season.
Make a Budget
Plan how much you can spend on the trappings of the season:
- food and beverage,
- travel, and
- things like holiday cards and stamps.
Be sure to put a little extra aside for unplanned purchases so you don’t stray from your budget.
Make a shopping list
Determine who you will buy for and how much you will spend on each person, then stick to the list. This will help you stay on budget.
If you have a large family or friend group who exchanges gifts, consider a secret Santa where everyone picks a name and only buys one gift. Secret Santa is great because you reduce the number of people you need to shop for and there are generally buying limits in place to ensure everyone receives something of equal value.
Start shopping early and watch for sales
If you make your list of who you will buy gifts for early, you can keep an eye on the items and shop around to get the best deal. If you leave all your shopping to the last minute, you tend to pay more per item and buy more than you need.
Once you have what’s on your list, you’re done. Don’t be tempted to get just one more thing. Stick to your list and your budget.
Cash in those points
Many credit cards, stores, and programs offer reward points throughout the year. Save them up and use those rewards points for groceries and gifts this holiday season.
One way to avoid holiday debt is to use cash for your shopping. Once you’ve created your holiday budget, withdraw that amount of money, and stick to your spending plan. Once that cash is gone, you’re done shopping.
Of course, cash isn’t always a viable option, like with online shopping. In these cases, consider a prepaid card. You can buy prepaid cards at many retail outlets and load them with a strict spending limit. But be careful of reload fees and other charges that may apply to these types of cards.
If using a credit card is your only option, only use it for things you would have paid cash for and then pay off the balance right away. You may charge holiday gifts to your credit card to earn points, but make sure you don’t spend more than you can pay off right away. Getting hit with the interest could make your holiday purchases 15% to 20% pricier, depending on the credit card you use.
Give the gift of your time
Thoughtful and homemade gifts often outshine the expensive ones. Baking cookies for your neighbors or helping a relative with a project or offering to look after the kids while your bestie has a night out with her beau are all ways to offer your time and talents in lieu of spending on gifts.
Cut Back on Extras (For a Month)
Just think: if you give up that $5 coffee each morning in November, you’ve got $150 extra for the Christmas season.
Online shopping can save you time and money. Many online stores offer discounts and free shipping around the holidays. Often, if you add items to your cart and then log out, you will receive an email the next day offering you free shipping if it wasn’t already available, and sometimes you’ll even get discounts as an incentive to complete the purchase.
Even though you are ordering online, be sure to stick to your list and your budget.
The bottom line
Stay calm and try not to get too caught up in the buying frenzy. The holiday season is about more than spending money. It’s about connecting with loved ones and celebrating a year well lived. By sticking to your budget and your list, you’ll be on your way to a happy holiday season and a debt-free new year.