Saving money during the holidays may seem like an oxymoron. After all, it’s the time of year when gifts — and lots of them — are expected. Entertaining can be costly, and there seems to be an event that calls for gifts or new clothes around every corner. There are many ways of managing your budget during the holidays, though. From DIY decorations to doing New Years on a budget, take control of holiday spending with these simple tips.
Establish a Budget
Saving money during the holidays is easier when you know how much you have to spend. There are two approaches you can take: decide what you’ll spend on each person, or determine how much you can afford to spend in total. The latter option allows you to divide the total by the number of people on your shopping list or set individual limits for each gift recipient. Remember to include the costs of decorations, entertaining, gift wrap, meals, charitable donations, and any other yearly expenses. If you’ll be spending far less than usual, consider discussing this fact with family members to help manage expectations. Resist the temptation to shrink your budget too much; a shortfall could cause you to charge gifts to a credit card.
Christmas Shopping on a Budget
Veteran Black Friday shoppers know there are plenty of deals to be found on the day after Thanksgiving. The same goes for Cyber Monday, just three days later. Whether you shop online or get in queue with other bargain hunters, you can find appliances, toys, electronics, and other goodies at amazing prices. Promo codes from retailers or sites like Retail Me Not can help you save even more; freeshippingday.com offers codes for free shipping through various stores online on December 14th.
Paribus and similar price-tracking apps allow you to find the best deal on a given item without having to do any footwork. Points programs like MyPoints pay you in gift cards to shop for items you would have bought anyway. And if you’ve only considered eBay as a place to buy collectibles, you may be surprised at the amount of high-quality, new merchandise that’s available at low prices.
Managing Budget During the Holidays
Ibotta, Checkout 51 and other rebate apps help you save big on liquor and ingredients for holiday dinners or party munchies. If possible, plan holiday dishes around items for which rebates are available. During the holidays, rebate apps offer abundant bonuses for making a designated number of purchases or buying certain items. Get the biggest bang for your buck by combining rebates with sales. Baking ingredients tend to go on sale in the weeks leading up to the fall and winter holidays, so stock up when you find great deals. Aldi stores offer low everyday prices on the basics. Or consider shopping at a warehouse store with a friend or two and splitting larger quantities of flour, sugar and other baking staples.
Focus on the Holiday Spirit
Some families establish price limits on gifts for each other. Placing a ceiling on gift-giving helps families save money and takes the focus off of consumerism. It causes some to be more resourceful, giving heartfelt handcrafted gifts, homemade meals or free babysitting. Parents can impart valuable lessons while spending time with the kids on family volunteering outings. Shopping for and donating items to shelters, serving everyday or holiday meals at soup kitchens, or distributing donations at food and toy drives are just some of the ways families can experience the meaning of the season together.
New Years on a Budget
New Year’s Eve restaurant dinners can be costly. From “deals” on champagne and other extras to “special” holiday meals, it seems an extra expense is lurking everywhere you look. In addition, menus are often limited to only a few choices for efficiency’s sake. Champagne packages may include lower-quality wines at dramatically inflated prices. Unless you have your heart set on a glamorous evening out, consider staying in with family and friends. You’ll avoid bad weather, the dangers of driving on an alcohol-focused holiday, and those ever-present budget pitfalls. If you miss the glitz of dressing up, send invitations instructing guests to dress up, down or anywhere in between so everyone feels comfortable.
Whether you focus your money-saving intentions on spending less for holiday meals, Christmas shopping on a budget or some combination of all of these tips, reducing this year’s expenses is within easy reach. Enjoy this special time of year to the fullest while saving money during the holidays.