CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET: 11 TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AND LAUGH MORE THIS SEASON
It is said that the average Christmas spending per household is around $800. That is a whole lot of money. While it’s so much fun to prepare for and shop for Christmas, it is also very easy for the average person to spend just a tad too much. Christmas is a most wonderful time of year, but it’s never a great time for your finances.
And because we all know that we have that tendency to overspend when it comes to the holidays, we usually enter the holiday season with a little trepidation and a whole lot of stress thinking about money.
But no more. You can now do Christmas on a budget by following these 11 simple money saving tips:
- Track where the money is going: It is not easy to keep to a budget when you cannot tell where the money is disappearing to. Download a money managing app whether on your phone or on your computer and track every single cent that you spend. This tip is not just for the Christmas period but is something that should be adopted for every month of the year. Track every single thing that you spend on, from wrapping paper, to fuel, to call cards, to presents, to groceries. Know what you spend on everything.
- Do your Christmas shopping earlier: One great tip to saving on Christmas is to do your shopping earlier than usual. When you do, you can research and compare prices, and look for and take advantage of bargains. You have all the time to do this because you are not in a rush and just dying to get your hands on the last gift in late December. To shop earlier is to shop smarter and to shop smarter is to save money.
- Choose a local holiday rather than an overseas trip: Choose a less expensive holiday by going for a local holiday or a closer to home holiday rather than jetting off to an expensive holiday outside the country. Go camping. Take a hike. Congregate at grandma’s or sister’s house for Christmas. A local holiday is always, always cheaper than an overseas one.
- Always work with a list: How easy it is to overspend when you don’t have a list of what you intend to spend your hard-earned money on. When you go to the mall or to the open markets with cash in hand and no list in hand, you tend to buy everything that catches your fancy, whether they are items you need or not. When you don’t have a list, every offered discount or ‘buy two, get one free’ offer becomes the most wonderful offer in the world, and you end up with items you have absolutely no need for but bought because they seemed a good buy as at the time of purchase. Long before Christmas, make a list of your intended spending under the sub-headings of gifts, travel expenses, food, decorations, and alcohol. And as much as you can, try not to go outside of your prepared list.
- Try your hands at creating gifts: Instead of buying all the gifts this year, why not make some of them. Everyone has an artistic talent up to a point, no matter how minimal. So, if you are great at cooking and baking, why not give some baked goods as Christmas presents this year rather than buying. What of handmade jewelry, homemade scented candles, fruit baskets, carved toys etc.? Not only is there thoughtfulness behind every hand-crafted gift than store bought gifts, you also get the double advantage of extra savings.
- Wait before you buy yourself that present: Yes, you deserve a spectacular holiday present for yourself, but do you know that that item will most likely still be there after the new year, and most likely at a lower cost. So, the key is to wait just for a little while. Delay your gratification and resist the urge to an immediate treat. This way, you free up more cash to spend on other things during the Christmas period and then save some money in the future when you buy that same item at a lower cost.
- Recycle wrapping paper: As much as is possible, try and recycle wrapping paper. This means cautioning your family to open gifts gently and with care rather than ripping through the papers. And if your family is the type that cannot control its excitement and must absolutely tear the wrapping paper to get to the goodies underneath, never buy expensive wrapping papers. Look for beautiful and colorful ones that are budget priced because once torn, they are no longer reusable.
- Leave the cooking to someone else: If you are the type that spends a fortune on Christmas cooking each year because you don’t know how not to make a feast or you are terrible at grocery shopping, get someone else to do the cooking this year. Let them make a list of things to be bought; Hand over the money and look away until the Christmas cooking is done, then dig in.
- Not everyone in your friend list deserves (or needs) a present: That he/she is your friend or acquaintance is not an automatic license to get a present from you. Cut down on your present list by giving only to close family members and close friends.
- Not the time for experimentation: Christmas is not the time to experiment with new alcohol or new food. It is likely that you may not like what you purchase, ditch it and then go back to your usual. So why not stick with the usual in the first place and leave the experimenting to another time when you are not so pressed for cash?
- Buy less: Does that child absolutely have to have four presents from you? If the answer is no, then limit the presents you buy for everyone. One gift is okay; two is okay; and three is good if you can afford it. But to go for volume just because it is Christmas makes no sense for your finances. Don’t do it.