The Thanksgiving weekend is over, Black Friday (and its assorted deals, crowds, and general insanity) has passed, and Cyber Monday is upon us. Perhaps it’s just me, but nearly the full week after Thanksgiving has become little more than a major selling point for most businesses. I’ll hold off on a final judgment until I see someone promoting, say, a ‘Second Chance Wednesday’ this week, but I’m sure it’s coming soon.
With the Christmas season officially upon us, it’s time to think about how you can have a great holiday while not going into a great deal of debt in the process. With all the gift-giving, family visiting, and huge dinner preparation (yes, there’s another one coming, less than a month away; you might want to get larger pants now), the holidays tend to be rather expensive. Luckily for you, I have a few suggestions for how to keep your expenses under control while still having a great holiday.
Eight Ways to Save During the Holidays
1. Keep Your Decoration Buying to a Minimum: This is something you might not think of, and for some people, it might not be a major issue. If your holiday decorating consists of putting up decorations you’ve had for a decade or more, you probably don’t need to worry about this. But if you are constantly trying to improve your decorations, either to ‘Keep Up With the Joneses’ or simply from your own desire to constantly improve your decorating look, you’ll end up using a lot of money before you even finish getting your decor finished. Try buying durable decorations that you can use repeatedly (and not worrying about constantly improving them), and you’ll be much better off. On that note:
2. Keep Your Electricity Use to a Minimum: If your idea of a suitable holiday decoration scheme is one that would make Clark Oswald of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation tell you to dial it back, you should definitely cut down on your lighting. (If you’re never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you now have something more to add to your holiday viewing list.) I know, I know, you want to keep your holiday lighting display on all the time. But if you are a bit more selective about when you have your lights on, perhaps only having them on a few hours early at night, you can keep your expense to a minimum while still having a festive Christmas display. Similarly, consider carefully which lights you have set up, and which to turn on; do you really need every inch of your your roof covered with lights?
3. Draw Names For Your Gift Giving: One of my favorite holiday saving ideas, and one my family has been doing since I was fifteen or so (and most of my cousins were similar ages). If you draw names, you can cut your level of spending down greatly while insuring that everyone gets a decent gift. Granted, you’ll get fewer gifts overall, but the one gift you do should be much nicer. (Because of the small number of gifts, I wouldn’t recommend doing this for children under the age of nine or ten; at that age, it’s a good thing get a nice number of gifts.) If you want to further cut your gift expenses for your family and friends:
4. Set Limits on Gift Expenses (and Stick to Them): I know I’ve shared this suggestion before, but it’s an important one for keeping your gift expenses at a minimum. If you don’t want to spend too much, you can talk with your friends, family, and anyone else with whom you are trading gifts, and set an upper limit on how much you’ll spend on each other. If you’re only spending, say, $25 on each of your family members (or on one of your family members, if you draw a name), you’ll cut down substantially on how much you end spending overall.
5. Research The Least Expensive Gift (and Source): There are lots of possible gifts out there, and lots of sources for those gifts. If you put some time into your search, you can find out where (online or offline) to buy a particular gift to minimize your costs. By choosing a good presents and planning your shopping trips accordingly, you’ll be able to keep your expenses at a minimum while still giving excellent gifts. While you’re at it, do some planning so that you can pick up gifts from the same store in a single trip, or get everything shipped to you in a single shipment (cutting your shipping costs, and possibly getting them dropped).
6. Plan Inexpensive Holiday Activities: Christmas isn’t all about the gifts (although trying telling that to a young kid); it’s also about spending time with your family, both immediate and extended. Luckily, there are lots of options for those out there who want to spend time with their family members without spending every penny. From making a snowman to enjoying video games when you are ready to go back inside, there are more than enough things to do in the run up to Christmas, and beyond.
7. Spend Your Holiday Time At Different Locations: Let’s be honest, it’s expensive to host your family for a holiday dinner or other event. As much fun as it might be to have your family over, if you and the rest of your family are always going to the same location, it’ll be very expensive for that member of your family. Try going to different family member’s homes for each holiday during the holiday season; you’ll not only keep any one family member from being overwhelmed, but also will enable everyone to get a better idea of how each family member’s house looks.
8. Use Debit Cards or Cash to Keep From Going Into Debt (Or Adding to It): This might not seem like a money saving method, per se, but if you are using cash or debit cards rather than credit cards, you’ll be sure that you won’t go into debt (or add to it) while buying gifts for your family and friends. It’s still possible that you can spend all the money you have available, granted; but it’s harder, both practically and emotionally, to spend more money when you have to physically hand it over (or directly have it removed from your checking account) than to add to a debt you’ll ‘pay back later’. Trust me on this, I know. If you keep only as much money as you intend to spend on hand and leave all your cards at home, you can ensure that you’ll stick to your budget.