Let’s face it: the winter holidays are closing in on us at a furious pace, with holiday shopping starting in stores before we even reach Halloween. But it’s the end of October and we have about 8 weeks to plan, execute and deliver our 2014 festivities if we haven’t started yet…and many of us haven’t!
With finances always at the front of our minds, we sometimes forget that traditions, thoughts and memories are what the holidays are all about. The gifts, while always appreciated, should only be a part of the events, not the whole thing. That’s why I’ve come up with a few suggestions that can ease the pain on your finances and still mean a fulfilling family time for your holidays this year.
- Set a $ budget. Ok, broken record here, but it’s a necessity. To add a twist, talk to your family and friends about setting reasonable limits…they probably feel the same as you do! After all, it is the thought that counts. Thought means the gift is something they can really use, or need or even want. But expense isn’t always related to those things so talking about it makes it more practical and affordable. You might even decide that adult gifts aren’t required and decide to concentrate on the kids this time around.
- To come up with some extra cash for your holiday expenses, sell off some of your “stuff” around the house at a yard sale, flea market or online. We all have things we don’t use in our closets, garages, and drawers. You’ll be surprised what you can get for something that you don’t ever use. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
- Or cut back on some expenses to save for the holidays. Skip that morning coffee on your way to work. Get your self your own early holiday gift of an insulated travel mug and pack it at home along with your breakfast. This can save you $15-20 a week (x 8 if you start now).
- Re-gift!!! No, I’m not kidding. If you’re not using it, someone else can and will. Just put that “thought” into matching the gift to the recipient and you’ll be so much better off. Just don’t re-gift to the original gifter…they will remember!
- Make gifts yourself. If you’re crafty, there’s lots of things you can create. If you can follow a recipe, you can make something tasty to give, whether it’s as complex as homemade jam or as easy as banana bread. Sentiment begins with “homemade” and it will be a hit. As long as you price it right and have the time and tools, you’ll reduce your costs and make the gift really personal.
- Make your own holiday wrapping paper with ink and stamps you already own, the color funnies from the Sunday newspaper works for me, or if you must buy, the dollar stores are great sources of inexpensive paper goods and supplies.
- Save some trees and send e-cards for the holidays, or if you’re attached to the paper kind, buy inexpensive cards at the dollar store or make your own.
- Avoid the use of your credit cards if you don’t want to wake up to a financial hangover in January. If you don’t pay them off in full each month, you’ll get the gift that keeps on giving….take no “interest” in that one!
- Seek out discounts on gift cards. They’re perfect gifts for stores and restaurants and are discounted on many websites (such as Raise.com, GiftCards.com, or CardPool.com) or even through the stores and restaurants themselves. They can save you money.
- Take advantage of free shipping. If you do buy a gift, many store and online sites will offer free shipping to you (or direct to the recipient).
- Do your research for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. Some sales now begin on Thanksgiving itself, but whatever the time frame, check out prices and make sure that your deals are good values.
- For holiday entertaining, keep things simple or go potluck. My wife’s extended family sometimes holds a potluck appetizer/dessert party with an ornament exchange instead of gifts for the adults.
Remember, holidays should be about family, friends, fun, and getting together for making memories. Spending money may be a part, but it isn’t what anyone truly needs or will remember. Make the holidays an event and save money with these tips for holiday shopping.
What are you favorite holiday memories or traditions?