Even if you have a list in hand and the best of intentions, holiday spending is often a budget-buster. The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. If money is tight, there is no need to despair. A little bit of creativity, savvy planning, and thoughtfulness can get you through the holidays without draining your wallet.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances, you can celebrate during the holidays, and afterward as well.
Making your own gifts is a great way to save, since supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts more economical, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are great ways to give personalized gifts.
Baking is another fun and easy option for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors. Potluck dinners are also a way for you and others to show off your cooking skills.
Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Why not offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents? Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.
Creating your own cards can also help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely!
Making a garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.
Get to Thinking Ahead:
Some advanced planning for holiday spending could mean more money in your wallet for the new year.
Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can also help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.
Consider ways to reduce your energy consumption – use LED lights, which use up to 90 percent less energy than conventional lighting. Walk around periodically to make sure that lights are not on in empty rooms. When the house starts filling with guests, turn down the thermostat. Use your oven to bake multiple dishes, or use a more energy-efficient toaster oven if it’s just one thing you need to warm up.
Instead of visiting the mall multiple times, try to buy all of your gifts in one trip. Draining your gas tank while shopping can be avoided if you buy online, but sometimes the shipping fees are more than you would have spent on gas driving to the mall. If you need to travel a long distance for a celebration, consider carpooling.
Finally, when the holiday hubbub is over, consider shopping early for the next holiday season. Frequently, outrageous deals are available on items like jewelry, bicycles, video games, and electronics.
Holiday overspending is a challenge for everyone. Instead, offer relief from the never-ending, gift-for-everyone cycle and organize a day of volunteer service. You'll get to spend quality time together - plus, you'll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer's remorse.
It’s also a great time to donate to charity gently-used clothes, books, sporting goods and other household items you no longer use. You’ll welcome the new year with new space in your life, and you could get a tax deduction to boot. Just be sure to keep track of what you give and put your donation receipts in a safe place with your other tax paperwork.
Catch up with us after the holidays – it’ll be a great time to talk about your financial plan for now and the years ahead. We can help you come up with ways to set a budget, build your savings, and save money. Make an appointment
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Resources: BALANCE, Investopedia.