Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for many people who are on a budget, it can feel like the most stressful time of the year. Figuring out how to afford gifts that your friends and family will appreciate can be a challenge. When you follow these simple tips, you can make your holiday shopping more cost-effective and less frustrating.
Plan Ahead with a Christmas Savings Account
People who wait until November or December to budget for their holiday shopping often find themselves coming up short on funds. Rather than go into massive credit card debt, it makes sense to start planning for the season months in advance. You can start a special savings account just for this purpose at your local bank.
Once or twice a month have a designated amount of money that you put into the account. Consider it a regular expense like one of your monthly bills. When you decide on the amount you’ll contribute to your gift fund each month, try to estimate how much you normally spend on holiday shopping. Make sure to save up as much as you’ll need to face the season without undue stress.
Consider Giving Homemade Gifts
If you’re crafty or creative, or you know how to follow instructions posted online, you can make a whole host of inexpensive gifts for family and friends. In this increasingly impersonal, automated world many people are extremely touched that someone would take the time to make them a homemade gift. These can be as versatile as baked goods, cookie jar kits, ornaments, or other decorative items.
If you have storage space and you’re thinking ahead, you can purchase the supplies you’ll need to make holiday gifts for the next year when Christmas items go on clearance in January. Then pull them out when you’re ready to prepare for the holiday season.
Save Big by Buying Last Year’s Model
When it comes to the holidays, it can be easy to fall into the trap of overspending by buying this year’s “latest and greatest” new item. Marketing strategists work hard to try to convince consumers that they “need” whatever hot new products are hitting the department store shelves. Whether you’re buying technology or toys, you can save significant amounts of money just by purchasing last year’s model.
Think of it this way: Last year, everyone was clamoring to purchase that item. Has life really changed so much in the last twelve months that what brought excitement and enjoyment a year ago won’t do the same today? In fact, if you or your loved ones don’t mind receiving a gently used gift, you may be able to save even more when someone else who’s getting this year’s latest fad item decides to sell their “old” one from last year!
Invest in One Large Gift
Parents and grandparents are becoming increasingly disillusioned at the prospect of seeing the toys they spent hundreds of dollars on end up laying around not getting played with a month after the holidays. Rather than wasting your hard earned money on cheaply made plastic gizmos that could soon end up broken, lost, or outgrown, consider investing the bulk of your Christmas savings into a large gift that the whole family will really use and enjoy. This could be a fun vacation, trampoline, swimming pool, or spa. You can often find pools, hot tubs, spa chemicals, and pool supplies deeply discounted during the colder months of the year. Christmas would be the perfect time to take advantage of these types of off-season sales and get your family a gift that will help you make lasting memories together.
Modify Holiday Traditions
One way large extended families or co-workers at offices are saving money is by coming up with creative ways to make holiday gift exchanges less expensive. For example, instead of each member of a large family getting each other gifts, they could simply draw names and buy a gift for the person whose name they drew.
Another fun option is for each person to purchase one generic gift and do a gift exchange game. In this type of exchange, each person puts a gift under the tree and takes a number. Then the person playing “Santa” draws a number out of a hat. The person whose number was drawn gets to choose a gift from under the tree. The next person whose number is drawn can either choose a present from under the tree or “steal” the first person’s present. It’s often helpful in these types of exchanges for everyone to agree on a ballpark price to spend on gifts. That way one person doesn’t walk away with a fancy $100 item while someone else gets stuck with a tube of cheap hand lotion.
There’s no need for you to feel like a Scrooge this Christmas. You can relax and experience the joy of giving even if you’re on a budget by implementing some of these smart strategies. Happy holiday shopping!
About the Author:
“This article was written by Dixie Somers. Dixie is the proud mother of three girls and wife to a wonderful husband. She is a part-time blogger and freelance writer, and she enjoys writing for several niches, including business, family, and finance.”
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