Tuesday, December 6, 2011

10 Ways to Save Money at Christmas

If there's one thing I need help with this time of year it's keeping to my budget! Tad & I keep an envelope that we slip money into throughout the year whenever we have a spare $20 and use that for birthdays and holidays. It works well for most holidays, but at Christmas it's so easy to go overboard. I found this article on The Adventerous Writer by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen. It's full of great tips!

These ways to save money at Christmas will reduce holiday stress. Use these holiday gift shopping tips to make your loved ones happy without spending a lot of money. Don’t let expensive Christmas presents set you back thousands of dollars – that’s bad for your budget goals and your health.

Before the money saving tips, a quip:

“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort,” said Helen Gurley Brown.

These ways to save money at Christmas will help you be comfortable all year round. One of these holiday shopping tips involves making holiday gifts for your loved ones (instead of buying expensive presents). For more info, check out the Holiday Gift Workshop Kit.

And, here are ten ways to save money at Christmas….

10 Ways to Save Money at Christmas – Holiday Gift Shopping Tips

1. Visualize your perfect Christmas holiday. For some people, Christmas isn’t Christmas without piles of gifts. But for most people, the holidays really are about family, friends, fun and peace. Vistualize how you can bring those values into your holiday celebrations. Then, stand by your goals. Inform “gift-grubbing” friends or family that you want to make the holidays more meaningful this year, and explain you’re finding ways to share experiences, rather than giving expensive gifts. Limit gifts to one per person. By setting expectations early, you can avoid holiday disappointment.

2. Plan and budget for Christmas spending first. Much holiday stress is caused by finances and lack of planning. Before the mall’s holiday tunes jingle your willpower away, think practically about holiday spending. And to save money at Christmas, plan for holiday season spending early. Remember to include:

  • Everyone you’ll give a gift to and how much you plan to spend.
  • Cards and postage.
  • Decorations.
  • Entertaining, including food, drink, special garments, child care, etc.
  • Year-end tips for newspaper carriers, babysitters, housecleaners, doormen, hairdressers and other service providers.
  • Gifts for coworkers, teachers, doctors, neighbors or others close to your family.
  • Travel costs.

To save money, just buy what you need. Don’t go Christmas shopping until you look at your bills, your checkbook, and your savings balance — and, if you have a spouse, until you talk about money as a couple. How to Spend Less at Christmas – Money Tips for Couples will help with those discussions!

2. Take inventory before holiday gift shopping. A painless tip is to scour your closets, under your bed or anywhere you might have stashed your clever, early purchases. Think back: Did you stock up on Grandpa’s argyle socks at last year’s post-holiday sales? Check before buying more pairs.

3. Start Christmas shopping online — early. Avoid the stress of malls altogether, skip the temptation of store displays, and steer clear of the hassle of fighting over holiday gifts. Research the best Christmas gifts early (read Romantic Holiday Gift Ideas), and look for free shipping deals.

4. Time your holiday gift shopping right. If you really need to go to a mall, avoid the busiest times to avoid stress. If possible, go early in the day when stores open or late on a weeknight. Take advantage of many stores’ extended hours during the holiday season. Monday night at 9 p.m. can be very quiet, even in mid-December.

5. Delegate the holiday gift shopping tasks. An effective way to save money at Christmas is to decide who in your family or group of friends will shop for each recipient. This can help ensure you get to priority sales and stores, and that nobody doubles up.

6. Build a snowman instead of spending money on holiday activities. Have a kids’ afternoon that will wear little bodies out (a gift to parents, too!) and provide fun memories. A Christmas money saving tip is to make a snowman, a snow fort, have a snowball fight or go sledding (instead of spending money). Live in a warm-weather climate? Try a trip to the beach or a nearby hike. If your child gets overexcited over the holiday season, read How to Reduce Stress at Christmas for Kids.

7. Have a Christmas card signing party. In lieu of gifts to friends, an easy way to save money at Christmas is to prepare holiday cards together. Ask each attendee to bring cookies or an appetizer. You provide drinks, tables to write on, and plenty of pens. The fun will provide more memories than a gift and incur no stress, and is good way to brainstorm gift ideas!

8. Give the Christmas gifts you can afford. Don’t give what your mother believes she deserves, a gift equal to what your sister-in-law gave you last year, or whatever unrealistic measure might be luring you toward overspending. Consider making a homemade gift — such as a Christmas Tree stocking.

9. Give the gift of time. Think of activities you can do all through the holiday season, rather than just purchasing a gift. The gift of time and caring can mean much more than a present – for both giver and recipient. Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor, or get a group together to surprise neighbors with an old-fashioned caroling party.

10. Get creative with homemade holiday gift coupons. Another Christmas money saving tip is to get into the at-home “gift card” tradition with homemade coupons. Kids can give parents coupons for prized commodities like “No whining” or “No begging.” Parents can offer up unexpected treats kids love, like “Make cookies together,” “Get out of one punishment free” or “Choose candy for movie night.” Or, buy an Amazon.com Gift Card – it’s one of my favorite Christmas gift ideas!

So remember that a Merry Christmas doesn't have to equal an empty wallet!

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