I hope you truly find the holidays to be the “most wonderful time of the year”, just as the song goes. It may not be the best for your wallet or your waistline, but it’s definitely my favorite season! And, it can still be wonderful without breaking the bank.
I’ve found a few helpful tips that help me to keep more money in my pocket, more time on my calendar and more patience (because I need to keep that for my kids!). I estimate that doing the following simple things saves me at least $100 every year, but probably even more!
Make a Spending Plan
It all adds up so quickly: the decorations, dinner, parties, and gifts. Prioritizing it all is essential.
Just as with the rest of my money, I find it liberating to have a spending plan when it comes to the holidays. I avoid wondering if I’m spending too much and I don’t feel guilty. Instead, I happily spend and just monitor it as I go.
The reality, though, is that 24% of millennials are still paying for last year’s holiday shopping via their credit card debt payments. That’s completely avoidable with some extra focus and planning. It’s simply not worth it to sacrifice your financial future for your desire to enjoy this year’s holidays.
Look at your budget first and see how much cash you have right now to spend during the holidays. Then plan your events and gifts around that. There are numerous free resources to help you have a frugal Christmas if that’s what your budget requires this year.
You’re likely to find that your holidays can be just as enjoyable without spending hardly any money at all.
Last year, I posted a holiday spending plan that I’m using again this year. Hopefully, that will help you to easily get started with your formal holiday spending plan. You can get as detailed as you would like, but I choose to set a total amount for each person on our Christmas list as well as an overall total for decorations and events.
Plan Well in Advance
Making an idea list early for the exact gifts you want to give and not just the amounts is also incredibly helpful. The sooner you start thinking of ideas the better!
There’s nothing like last-minute Christmas shopping to destroy your budget. I’ve totally been there. One particularly busy year while we were living abroad, we realized only a couple days before Christmas that we had significantly more toys for one child than another (gah!). We ended up making a mad dash out to the store at the last minute and ended up spending way more than we had planned. And, those gifts were not exactly their favorite in the end. It was definitely lose-lose.
Of course, planning ahead will not only improve your money situation but your sanity as well. Those on your list will actually get gifts they want, and you’ll save time and money. And that is win-win.
Shop Around for Deals
In line with the previous tip, planning ahead also allows you to do some shopping around at different stores for the best prices. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have recently come and gone, but there are still plenty of sales before Christmas.
There are websites and browser extensions that can help you to easily compare prices if you’re an online shopper. One of my favorites is a browser extension called Slice Watch that you can set to alert you if there’s a price drop on the item you’re considering purchasing.
Again, the earlier you plan ahead, the longer you’ll have to watch prices and find the best deals for specific Christmas gifts.
It’s amazing how just a few minutes of your time and/or waiting for a sale can save you a significant amount of money.
Earn Cash Back Rewards
I shop almost exclusively online these days. Even my groceries are purchased online and then simply picked up at the store. It’s been life-changing for sure. Online shopping can also allow you to get some discounts and promotions that you may not get if you shop in-store.
There are a number of websites that you can go through to earn a percentage of your purchases back in cash. My favorite (because of its simplicity to use) is Ebates. If you set up an Ebates account and start your online shopping through their link, you can earn a percentage back, often 3-5% for main retailers (psst, you can also get $10 to get you started if you use my Ebates referral link to set up your account). Last year, I made $50 just in the holiday season alone.
In addition to using Ebates, I also earn a significant amount of money back in credit card rewards. I have several different cards that offer varying rewards, such as:
- 5% revolving categories, often department stores during the holidays
- 3% on dining
- 5% on Amazon (my fav!)
- 2% minimum on everything else
I originally set up my credit card plan by looking at my budget and then opened cards that would optimize rewards on my personal spending patterns. I would estimate that I earn a minimum of $30-35 in credit cards rewards solely from holiday spending.
Save Credit Card Rewards Throughout the Year
Despite being a pro budgeter, I still often overspend on the holidays. Fortunately, I have enough savings that it doesn’t push me into debt, but it does hurt to have to take money out of my savings buckets!
This year, I’ve committed that if I go over budget on my holiday shopping, I’ll be cashing out my credit card rewards for the extra amount. This is not ideal for me because I want to use these rewards for travel instead (and they are worth much more when used for travel than when redeemed for cash!).
Saving up credit card rewards could also be a great method if you have trouble saving up for holiday gifts. Since the money isn’t in your bank account, it can be easily kept out of sight and out of mind until the holidays each year. There are some great credit card bonus offers as well that can jumpstart your savings.
Of course, I only recommend using credit cards if you pay them off each month in full and don’t overspend when you use them.
If the holidays are a spending trigger for you, as they often are for me, utilizing some simple tips can help you to keep the cheeriness that the holidays bring, long after Christmas day has passed.
That’ll free you up to setting those new year’s financial goals rather than working to pay off those holiday expenses!
Here’s another one: Ask if there are any discounts. Sure, you’ll often hear “no, sorry” but you won’t believe the number of times I hear “actually yes, here’s another X off the purchase price”. I just saved money by asking this question when we bought our Christmas tree, and at a local retail store recently too. It doesn’t hurt to ask! 🙂
That’s a great one Brad – I’ve been surprised when I’ve asked before!
Great tips! Something I’ve done in the past is to make gifts instead of buying items. Baked goods, chocolate treats, candles, soup mixes, recipe kits, etc. Getting the kids in on the action can be fun for them too, especially if you are making something for a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, or teacher in their life.
My wife has done some planning a few times for what gifts to get for Christmas and try to do it throughout the year. One year she made knit caps and scarves for all of our family members. I believe she started in the spring and finished it by early fall. It was stress free when the holiday shopping season was in full swing because we had gifts all ready. Planning in advance is a great tip!
I love homemade gifts, great tip!
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