At Christmastime in my family, each person gets at least $100 in gifts in exchange for their hundreds in debt. My first Christmas living on my own, I remember eating microwave soup for weeks so I could afford gold earrings for my grandma and expensive perfume for my stepmom. I felt obligated to spend because I knew what everyone else did. The next year, I vowed Christmas wouldn’t be like that. With some practical shopping and budgeting tips, I’ve been able to give gifts to all of my relatives and pay the bills. Here are 7 tricks to help you start saving:
- Make a list, check it twice. By making your list early, you’ll make sure you don’t miss anyone – like your boss or a child’s teacher. Last minute purchases are often more expensive because you don’t have as much time to shop around. If you’re trying to decide what to get, listen to normal conversations about what your friends and family need. Decide what to get them based what you hear. When it comes to asking for gift ideas from those on your list, they’ll probably struggle to come up with something and just ask for whatever pops into their heads. While your mom might want perfume, she’ll get more use out of and appreciate that coffee pot she’s been talking about more. Getting these kinds of gifts also shows that you’ve been listening and that you care.
- Set limits. Decide how much you want to spend on each person. If you’re not sure what is reasonable, look at what you’ve thought about getting each person. If you can afford that general amount, go for it. If not, you might need to rethink your gift ideas.
- Start early. Starting early can get you wrapping paper and gifts for much cheaper than if you wait until closer to the holidays. Look for deals in advance on items (like technology) that won’t be on sale towards the end of the year. Also, think about purchasing multiples for a bulk discount. For example, wine is a great gift. Give wine to multiple people on your list and put the savings from the bulk discount in your pocket.
- Stockpile. One friend of mine shops clearance sales all year. She snags anything she loves with an appropriate price tag. She stores all of these gifts in a box in her closet until the holidays roll around. Then she just sorts through the finds and gives appropriate gifts for each person.
- Make gifts at home. Browse Pinterest or the Internet for ideas on what gifts you can make. Bath soaps and scrubs, jewelry and crocheted items are all easy, inexpensive gifts you can give. Even if you’re not crafty, items like gift jars can be put together by anyone.
- Limit credit usage. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need to buy it. Sometimes store-specific credit cards can add savings for you, but only sign up for them if you’ll use them because some have fees. Make sure the discount is worth it, even with associated card fees.
- Don’t forget the roast beast. A budget for groceries associated with the holidays. In my family, everyone bakes a lot of cookies and exchanges them at get-togethers. Since this is a tradition I want to participate in, I need to make sure I budget for the cost of my cardamom. If you’re holding a feast, you’ll want to budget for that, too. Also budget for your decorations. That gorgeous door wreath should be figured into your budget.
By planning ahead, you can rack up the savings. Keep yourself out of debt this holiday season while still being able to enjoy family traditions. While everyone else is out scrambling in the stores, you can relax at home with your discounted bottle of wine.