The holiday shopping season is well…tempting. Sometimes it’s hard to resist the holiday cheer and bright, twinkly merchandise. But in order to avoid an after holiday crash—and associated eye-popping credit card statements, do a little creative planning now. That way you will feel light and airy when February comes around so you can enjoy some guilt-free shopping for the ones you love.
According to American Research Group, Inc., the average shopper around the country claims they will spend about $983 for gifts this holiday season. So here are some ways to reduce that figure and instead focus on the joy of the season not the pinch of an empty wallet.
Use your creative skills and handcraft with love! Unique and fun heartfelt gifts are appreciated. Get your ideas and materials together now, so when the weather gets a bit nippy you have ample time to create. The options are endless, but here are some of our favorites. We bet these won’t be re-gifted!
Stovetop Potpourri – give the wonderful aroma of the holidays with a stovetop mix of peppermint, pine, and cinnamon. Get the details here.
Soy Peppermint Mason jar candles – this one is so great, you’ll probably want some for yourself. And you can buy most of the materials in bulk, so plan to give this one to many of the people on your list.
Homemade ornaments – use fabrics and swatches that are around the house to sew stars, Christmas trees, and more. Just purchase a little stuffing and design away. (Inexpensive buttons and pom poms make terrific add ons.)
Golf leaf paper mache bowls – these make an impressive gift –but take a bit of time and patience. We found one website with 8 steps to magic. Another great gold leaf idea is a picture frame – see a YouTube video here.
Coffee mug art – this functional favorite involves creating an art coffee mug using porcelain paint pens. You can freehand it, or check out this tutorial that provides adorable monster designs that you can easily transfer onto the mugs. The porcelain markers are around $5, but pay attention to the directions on the one you choose, some need to be heat-fixed in the oven. A set of four mugs would be an incredible gift—check out closeouts and discount stores for inexpensive cups. (Target has got some plain white cups priced from $1.99 – $2.00 apiece.)
One-of-a-kind glass ornaments – this gift that can be enjoyed throughout the holiday season and saved for future ones. Create a one-of-a-kind glass ornament—fill them, paint them, glitter them, and more. One really different concept was filling them with vintage handkerchiefs.
Winter Pine Cones
Here’s an easy idea that you can use to turn your home into a magical winter wonder land. Gather up some pine cones and branches. Paint the tips white. Then use spray adhesive and sprinkle generously with Epson salts. And voila – magical snow décor to scatter around your home! (We tried this one out and it took just a few minutes and looked terrific.)
- Set a realistic budget – before you shop ‘til you drop, make sure you have a reasonable expectation for what you will spend. Don’t forget the extras like cards and postage.
- Create your holiday list and check it twice. Figure out where you can make cuts and which gifts are non-negotiable.
- While we don’t promote re-gifting per se, we wouldn’t hesitate to use any remaining gift cards to purchase gifts for this holiday season. So check around to see if you have a full or partial gift card left before you set out (or go online) to shop.
- This is the perfect time to rake in some extra cash for your holiday shopping spree. Take an afternoon to go through closets and see what you can sell on Craigslist, EBay, or your local consignment shops. If it is something you haven’t worn or used for one year, it is time to let it go!
- Use the Christmas account you set up at State ECU, the smart way to save for the holidays. If you did not take advantage of this great savings tool last year, set one up now for next year.
- Suggest a “thrift shop with a purpose” gift exchange. Perhaps some of your more socially aware friends or family members would find that shopping at a particular thrift store that benefits a charity would be a meaningful way to celebrate. Perhaps you can set a reasonable cash limit and see how creative (and fun) the experience is – both to give and receive.
- Use online retailers that have no shipping fees—and certainly use Amazon Prime if you are a member. And remember, the holidays are a great time to take advantage of price-match guarantees, free shipping, and other end-of-the-year deals.
- Low-cost thoughtful gifts like a magazine subscription to a much loved hobby or activity, or online subscription like one from Filmstruck, which offers film aficionados access to a library of classic, indie, foreign, and cult films (starts at $5.99 per month).
- Experiential gifts – do something special for your mom or aunt instead of purchasing something they don’t need. How about cooking someone special a lunch? Taking someone to a movie? They would probably treasure the quality time.
- Personalized scrapbook – a book of memories would thrill your grandmother.
If you plan to shop on Black Friday, do your homework beforehand to make sure you really are getting a true bargain. Check out prices a week or two before on the items you plan to buy. And don’t forget about Cyber Monday deals, too. You may find some of the free apps below helpful (available on iTunes or Google Play).
ShopSavvy – download to get up-to-date news about the best deals happening at a range of popular stores. You also can use your phone as a barcode scanner to pull of prices across different retail outlets.
Flipp – gives you access to digital versions of circulars from many popular retailers. It also combines coupons for stackable savings.
The Coupons App – allows you to access deals, coupons, and online promo codes from more than 100,000 retailers. It even reminds you when saved coupons are about to expire.
Black Friday Tracker – posts Black Friday specials from your favorite retailers and claims to have sales posted up to three weeks earlier than the Thanksgiving Day newspapers. Extra items include competitor price comparisons and user comments. Also has associated apps.
Remember, the holiday season comes once a year, but the financial burden can last for many, many months. With some planning and creativity, you can make sure the holiday season is bright and merry.