It’s almost that time of year again. A time to surround ourselves with friends and family and celebrate the holidays. The sad reality though is that many people dread this time of year because of the costs that seem to go along with the season.
This year’s going to be different though. This year I want you to make a vow. Vow to make a holiday budget and stick to it. If you can stick to your budget, and also use the saving tips below, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll stay UNDER your budget.
- Make a list and check it twice. Write down who you’ll be buying presents for this year.
- Set a budget for each person, as well as a total budget for presents. Stick to both.
- If you spend less than you were planning on one person, that extra savings does NOT roll over to another person. It goes into the Debtbomb Jar.
- Did we already say stick to your holiday budget?
- Consider homemade gifts such as baked goods, a knitted sweater, photo album or CD mix.
- Make a donation in a friend/family members’ name to their favorite cause. Check out JustGive.org to find the perfect organization. Don’t forget, these donations are also tax deductible.
- Why not find an event on Living Social that you and a friend or family member can enjoy together? There are so many choices on this site such as wine tastings, spa days, photography sessions, and more at a good discount.
- Give a gift of service. Know your friends go to the beach each year? Offer to babysit their kid or watch their pets while they’re gone.
- We all accidentally leave someone off our list, so for those presents that you keep on hand just in case, stick with a homemade goodie basket. You shouldn’t spend more than $10 on each basket.
- Always ask and take advantage of free gift wrap if it’s available!
- Start your holiday shopping as early in the year as you can and keep an eye out all year long. When December comes, you’ll be happy you already have a few people crossed off your list.
- Don’t buy anything for yourself while shopping for others!
- Only use cash if possible. No credit.
- Shop around. Use a barcode scanner to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. Try Amazon’s Price Check or ShopSavvy.
- Watch for unexpected expenses like wrapping paper, decorations, candy, etc. These things add up quickly.
- Leave the kids at home. This is more of a general rule, but it definitely applies to your holiday shopping as well.
- Stick to returnable items. What if you find a better deal, or a better present for a better price?
- Use coupons. Check local ads, coupon sites such as Groupon, and company websites for discounts. Also check social media sites. Many times they’ll have exclusive offers for Facebook or Twitter fans.
- Consider buying off eBay, consignment shop or Facebook trade groups.
- Research prices and products online. Pay attention to user reviews. These will often tell if you’re going to get what you pay for.
- If shopping online, search Freeshipping.org for a coupon code. (Buying online doesn’t save you money if you have to pay a $20 shipping and handling fee.)
- Buy discount gift cards online. Try giftcardgranny.com.
- Talk with children about how much they’re allowed to spend. If they have “chore money” help them budget it out. It’s important to start teaching your children about money at a young age.
- Take advantage of national shopping holidays like Cyber Monday and Black Friday.
- Don’t buy expensive tags for presents. Design and print on your computer at home.
- For wrapping paper, get the kids involved and let them design it. One $5 roll of blank drawing paper equals about 10 rolls of wrapping paper.
- For holiday decor, make your own! Get the kids involved for a day of crafts and cocoa!
- Send a holiday Ecard to save money on printing and stamps.
- For some holiday entertainment, consider a staycation and take advantage of free local community events.
- Suggest doing Secret Santa with friends and family.
- Holiday grocery shopping while you’re hungry. Very bad idea. Way too many treats around the store!
- Going to see Grandma and Grandpa for the holidays? Be sure to pack snacks for the road trip instead of stopping for fast food. Cheaper, more nutritious and makes for a quicker trip!
- Most people like to have a glass of beer or wine during holiday events. Think about making your own beer or wine at home.
And the most important holiday savings tip to remember: The holidays are about being with friends and family, not about giving and receiving gifts.
If you have some holiday savings tips of your own, please share!
Martin Sher is CEO of AmSher Collection Agency and a recent past president of ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals. Martin is the author of the 54 word Collector Pledge, committing credit and collection professionals around the world to the ethical and respectful treatment of all consumers. Martin’s personal mission is to get 5 million people out of debt-for good, and for FREE.