23 Simple Ways to Save Money During the Holidays
December is a month when it becomes all too easy to spend far more money than we plan on spending. Between the buying of gifts, the extra food purchased for potlucks and parties and the money spent on vacations to see our loved ones, we suddenly find ourselves spilling cash out of every pore. With the economy in the state that it’s in and everyone mindful of the need to save cash, it’s important to get back to the basics of saving some money during the holiday season.
Here are 23 simple ways that you can save money while still enjoying your holidays:
1. Create a budget. This is the most obvious solution to over-spending and also the easiest one to forget or avoid to do. The key is to look realistically at what you can afford to spend as well as what you are likely to spend. If what you can afford is less than what you want to spend, see if you can cut back on your spending. If not, create a viable repayment plan for the debt that you’ll accumulate. Taking the time to think about your spending is really going to help you save money during this holiday season.
2. Stagger your holiday events. The reason that you want to do this is because the gifts that you get from one event can be re-gifted to someone else. There are some rules to follow when it comes to socially appropriate re-gifting but there’s nothing wrong with doing it. The bottles of wine that you get at the first party you host this season can be taken to all of the subsequent gatherings that you attend which saves you money without offending anyone.
3. Drive to your destination instead of flying there. With the price of gas suddenly as low as it is, people who haven’t already booked airline flights may want to skip the plane and take a drive to see the family instead.
4. Make a list and check it twice. The truth is that you don’t have to get gifts for every single person that you know. Make a holiday gift list and then go through it with a fine tooth comb. Circle anyone that you can get a card/ give a call/ send a text message instead of buying a gift for. Then try to think about an inexpensive personal gift that’s right for each other person on the list.
5. Create a signature drink for any gatherings that you host. Most people who have others over for the holidays end up spending a whole lot of money stocking up the liquor cabinet so that there’s a little something for everyone. You don’t have to do this. Create a signature holiday drink for your gatherings – minty mojitos, rum-laced eggnog, vodka cranberry … whatever it is, make that what’s available and let people know on the invite that they’re free to BYOB if they aren’t interested in your signature drink. No one will mind, you’ll still have something special to share and a lot of money will be saved.
6. Stay home. The kids are home from school. You may have some time off work. Instead of bundling everyone up to go out to see the latest Christmas movie or go to Christmas parties, consider just staying home together. You can play board games, watch Christmas movies on DVD and drink hot cocoa together.
7. Remember that a picture’s worth a thousand words. The best way to save money on gifts is to do homemade gifts instead of storebought ones. And the surefire favorite gift that everyone loves is a photo or photo scrapbook that reminds them of the good times that you’ve had together. Be selective about the pictures that you print and the frames and photo albums that you buy; this is one that can get pricey if you’re not watching your spending. But be creative and you’ll find that you’ve made lots of memorable gifts without spending a lot of money.
8. Pay attention to the use of your cell phone. December is a month when we tend to talk a lot to people we haven’t talked to in a long time, catching up on the happenings of the past year and wishing each other well. For those people who have limited “free minutes” and data usage on their phones, this can result in a bigger-than-usual phone bill. Nobody needs bigger bills at this time of year so make sure that you’re paying attention to the times that you’re making and taking calls so that you don’t go over your minutes.
9. Warm your hearth. The Christmas season makes us all want to be cozy and warm. If that means turning up the heater, it could mean higher electricity bills. If you’ve got lights on your home and tree, those bills are even higher. Don’t underestimate the warmth of cozy sweaters and fires in the fireplace … they’ll infuse the season with the holiday spirit and save you some money at the same time.
10. Enjoy all of the free activities that are available around you at this time of year. One of the great things about this season is that you don’t have to spend money on things to have a good time with other people. Many places hold free seasonal events like tree lightings and Christmas sing-a-longs. Combined with the invitations to spend time at friend’s homes and the fun activities like going caroling, it’s easy to make sure that you’re entertainment spending stays low during the month of December to make up for some of the other expenditures that you’re making.
11. Stock up on cheaper foods for home. You’ll be doing a lot of dining this month whether that’s going out with the family, gathering for Christmas dinner, snacking on the chocolates everyone’s been giving you or lingering around the trays of food at those company Christmas parties. Since you’re going to be indulging so much already, make your every day meals a little bit simpler and less expensive. Forego the expensive meats and dairy products that you may usually get and try to stick to fresh produce and things like rice, beans and pasta. You won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything since you’re tummy’s satisfied elsewhere throughout the month and you’ll find that your grocery bill is lower than usual.
12. Make gift agreements with your loved ones. There are many variations on this. Some families/ spouses / friends agree that they’ll spend no more than a certain amount of gifts for each other. Others do the pick-a-name-out-of-a-hat thing so that everyone only has to be one gift for someone else in the group. Still others agree that they’ll give gifts only to the kids in the family and not the adults. Whatever agreement works for your big group, come to one so that everyone can save some money.
13. Learn to say no. You are probably going to get invited to a lot of different events and gatherings for the holidays. There is no rule that says that you have to go to all of them. If there’s one that you just don’t want to go to even though you like the person that invited you, be comfortable with just saying that you can’t make it. Blame it on the busy holiday season. You keep your stress levels down and save the money that you would have spent on gifts/ drinks/ tickets/ dinner/ whatever it was that you didn’t go to.
14. Don’t waste money on fancy wrapping paper or gift bags. For those gifts that you are giving, you don’t need to get fancy. What’s inside the bag is what matters. Take any kind of paper or bag that you have lying around (brown shopping bags, magazine pages, newspaper, scratch paper) and decorate it or dye it to make it pretty without spending a penny. Use that to wrap your gifts.
15. Buy decorations at the dollar store. The point here is that there is no reason to spend a whole lot of money on decorating your home for the holidays but you don’t have to skip decorating either. A bag of tea light candles from the dollar store and some inexpensive holiday flowers can make your home seasonally wonderfully without breaking the piggy bank.
16. Cash in those credit card rewards points. If you have saved up any credit cards rewards points throughout the year then now is a great time to cash them in. Whether it’s miles to get you home for the holidays or points that can be redeemed for gifts to put under someone’s tree, these things are there to save you money at a time of year when you’re usually just spending spending spending.
17. Do your comparison shopping. Most people are pretty smart about comparison shopping all throughout the year and then get too stressed out in December to deal with the hassle of it. Take a deep breath and start surfing the web for the places where the best deals are. After all, this is the month when you probably buy the most stuff so it’s the time when saving a little here and a little there can really add up.
18. Ship stuff early. The cost of shipping goes sky high if you wait until the last minute to get to the post office and get things sent overnight. Make sure to shop first for those people who don’t live near you (or for any online gifts that you’re buying and having shipped directly to someone) so that you don’t pay unnecessary money on the cost of shipping stuff out.
19. Reduce your Christmas card postage. Every little bit counts so you want to try to cut down how much you spend on stamps and greeting cards this year. The best choice is to make your own postcards out of card stock since this saves the cost of buying the cards and cuts the postage almost in half. Reducing the number of people you send to by using email instead is another option.
20. Eat your leftovers. A surprising amount of money can be saved by people who make sure that they take leftovers from the gatherings they go to and the meals they eat at restaurants for the holidays and make sure to reheat and eat them the next day.
21. Choose the strangely-shaped tree. Christmas trees cost a nice chunk of change but there are ways to save money on them. One is to ask around at the lots to see if there are any small or odd-shaped trees on the lot that aren’t selling. You can bargain these babies down to a decent price. Sure it’ll look a little silly or may require some sawing off here and there but you’ll all laugh about it as you put the tree up, remember it years later and the point of the Christmas tree will still get across.
22. Look to the past. Christmas wasn’t always done in the expensive way that we do it today. There was a time when people popped popcorn together to string into decorations and had oranges in their stockings instead of pricey toys. Ask the older folks in your family what they remember the holidays being like and bring back some of those traditions that will save you some money will enjoying a little nostalgia.
23. Spend time instead of money. There’s a whole month ahead of you during which you can spend time with the people that you love. Remember that this is what the holiday season is really all about. People who love you will care much more about your presence than your presents so clear off the calendar and commit to spending more time than money on those you’re lucky enough to have in your life.