The holiday season can be the very best time of the year. It is often a time of homecoming, celebration, and opportunity to connect with friends and family. However, for many people, the holiday season can also be the most stressful time of the year. There are many reasons for this, but money often tops the list; the holiday season is expensive. People spend close to $900 dollars on gifts each year, and when combined with food and travel, it is no wonder we are all a little frazzled when we check our bank accounts in mid-December. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four money-saving tips that can keep cash in your bank account and dial the stress way back this holiday season.
Start a Holiday Fund Early
If you know that you are going to spend $1,000–$1,200 on gifts, food, and travel over the holidays, start saving for them as early as possible. If you start stashing $100 dollars or so each month into a holiday savings account, you will have all the money you need when the holidays roll around. Even if you start a little bit late, that is ok, too; just increase the amount of money that you are saving each month so you meet your goal at the end of the year, and have all the holiday money you need. And if you aren’t disciplined or otherwise able to save each month, any little bit that you are able to stash over the year will make your holiday cash outlays that much more manageable when December rolls around.
Make a Shopping List
The worst thing that you can do when it comes to gift shopping is to simply go out, without a plan, and shop away. You’ll more likely than not forget to get all the gifts that you need and end up breaking your holiday budget in the process. Instead, make a list of what you are going to get for each person. Do a little online research to determine how much each gift will cost, and then get an estimate of your expenditures, to ensure you stay within your budget. If you do this early enough, you can watch the papers and internet and hunt for bargains, saving you even more money.
Another great way to save money over Christmas is to shop online. Perusing the internet can save you cash directly, through great deals; it will also decrease your gas and parking expenses from hitting the malls and box stores across town as well. You often avoid sales taxes through online shopping, too.
Sites like Amazon have great deals on new and used items, and their Amazon Prime service lets you avoid most shipping fees. Similarly, eBay has great deals during the holidays and often offers shipping discounts during this time of the year as well. Finally, any holiday shopper who does not scan Craigslist once or twice before purchasing gifts is likely going to miss out on some great deals this holiday season.
One of the best ways to save money over the holidays is—well, to save money. Find ways to cut corners on common holiday expenses to bolster your bottom line, and do it in a way that barely anyone notices. Buy your Christmas tree at the absolute last minute; you may get a tree that is a bit scraggly, but you will pay almost nothing for it, as the Christmas tree lots will just be trying to get rid of any remaining stock.
Instead of spending $300–400 for a family meal at your home, turn the dinner into a potluck, and have every family member bring a certain item. Cut back on holiday decorations, especially all those lights that cause your utility budget to skyrocket at the end of December. Reuse old wrapping paper if it is in good condition for gifts, or employ an old favorite, the Sunday comics. Finally, make a “no presents” pact with family and friends early on, and avoid spending money on gifts altogether.
By William Lipovsky