Thanksgiving to Christmas is a wonderful, fun-filled time of year, but it can be an expensive time of year too, if you’re not careful. Here are 10 ways to get in the holiday spirit without cleaning out your wallet:
1. Make a budget
Some people wince when they hear the word “budget” because they envision lots of spreadsheets, rolls of calculator paper and stress. But, making a budget doesn’t have to be that exhaustive. It can be as simple as determining how much you want to spend and sticking to that number.
2. Stick to your budget!
Speaking of sticking to your budget, it’s easy to set a limit, but not succumbing to temptation, like, the cutest ever Frozen dress that your daughter will just love, is an entirely different challenge. (P.S. Did you know ‘Frozen’ Elsa dresses are selling on eBay for more than $1K? True story.) To stay within your means, be mindful of temptation and know that more is not always better.
*Retailers employ lots of tricks during the holidays to get you to spend more. Check out our post “How to Avoid Sneaky Retailer Tricks” and be one step ahead of their game.
3. Use cash
Paying in cash is another way to stay within your budget. Having the money in your hand forces you to be more cautious about where you spend it. Then, once it’s gone, that’s it, you’re done. No need to consult a spreadsheet or tally receipts.
4. If you use credit cards, use the one with the lowest interest rates
If you use credit cards (and chances are you will) be smart about which plastic you swipe. Only charge the cards with the lowest interest rates so that you pay less in the long term for what you buy.
5. Don’t wait until the last minute to do your shopping
If you procrastinate, you will spend more. With less time to shop around and compare prices, you will sacrifice affordability (and sometimes quality) for urgency. Also, some retailers actually count on people being Last Minute Larrys and mark up their prices the closer it gets to Christmas.
6. Send e-cards
Save money and be eco-friendly by sending your loved ones e-cards. Many websites offer them for free, too. Another bonus: you don’t have to lick envelopes.
7. Get creative with your gift giving
Don’t dismiss homemade or intangible gifts, like coupons for thoughtful services. One Christmas, a former colleague of mine who had a toddler and infant twins gave her husband a homemade coupon book full of “passes” for activities that many working parents find themselves forgoing, e.g. “One Night Out with the Guys,” “One Dinner Date at the Restaurant of Your Choice,” and a “Get out of Dishes Free” card. For a frazzled, sleep-deprived parent, it was a better gift than you could find in any store.
8. Prioritize your gift list
We’d all love to get the perfect gift for every one on our Nice List, but when you start including aunts, uncles, cousins, distant cousins, nieces, and nephews, perfection becomes impossible. Prioritize who you spend more on, and be honest about who should get a little less.
9. Spend time, not money
Holidays are ultimately about family, right? This is easy to forget amidst a flurry of ads, marketing campaigns and social pressure to give material goods. Tune out the TV, ignore your Facebook newsfeed and do things with your loved ones that don’t cost money, like driving through your neighborhood and viewing houses decked out in Christmas lights. Or (if you live in Santa Fe), getting cups of hot cocoa and doing the beautiful, annual Farolito Walk on Canyon Road.
10. Reign in the decorating
It’s fun to trim your home for the holidays, but decorations can be surprisingly expensive and will quickly drain your account if you’re not careful. Limit your decorating to one or two spots in your home, and find creative alternatives for trimmings, like affordable DIY decorations. Also, the Dollar Tree also has surprisingly nice ornaments, so definitely check them out.
What are some tips and trick you use to save money during the holidays? If you feel like sharing, tell me in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.