Your neighbors may still have their jack o’ lanterns still on their front porch, but Halloween has come and gone. That means one thing: the holidays are officially here. Before you start lugging the decorations from the basement or attic, now is the perfect time to consider five ways to save money this holiday season.
- Be Like Santa. I don’t mean gain a lot of weight, grow a beard and wear a lot of red. Be like Santa in the way he makes a list. Consider the people in your life. This includes family, friends, co-workers, your children’s teachers, hosts of holiday parties… Don’t forget those who provide you regular services throughout the year like building doormen, house cleaners, yard care givers. (Geez, that list gets long, doesn’t it?) From those people, who do you need to buy gifts for? Who would it be best to give a gift card? Who would appreciate kind thoughts expressed in a greeting card? Who would be happy with homemade cookies or a baked holiday treat? What we consider a gift may not be the exact same of what another considers a gift. Decide what you believe needs to be done based specifically on that individual.
- Buy By the Numbers. Come on… we’re a mortgage company. You knew we’d get to budgeting at some point, and here it is: Set a budget. It’ll be hard to gauge how much you’ve spent and saved if you don’t write down a budget. You can approach is various ways. You can start with a total amount you want to spend and then divvy it up among those who appear on your list. Or, you can go through each person on your list, place an amount you’d like to spend on them and add it all up; from there, you can see if the total works for you or if you need to decrease the amount for a person or two. In your budget, be sure to include other little items like wrapping paper, tape and bows… plus shipping (for those loved ones far away).
- Resist Temptation. On that list of those you are buying gifts for, here’s a hard one: leave yourself off of it. Once you get in that shopping zone, I know it can be hard. You see that sweater, so you go ahead and try it on. And, of course, you look amazing in it. What are you going to do — *not* buy it? Exactly. You’re not. Your budget will go much further if you avoid these impulse buys. If you want that sweater, why not take a picture of it and send the information to a loved one. They could probably use the idea of what to buy you, and you’ll help them get you something that you love. While you’re at it, consider even your regular small impulse purchases. Cutting out those fancy daily coffees add up and can save you a considerable amount. Once the holidays are over and the gifts are all purchased and paid for, you can return to the habit.
- Dig Deep. Before you spend a lot of time driving around (and money on gas), hop online and look into your potential gift purchases. What stores are running good sales on those items? If ordering online, is free shipping an option? To help you find better deals faster, consider using tools such as the ShopSavvy app which allows you to scan the bar code of an item to find nearby competitive prices. Also, pay attention to your emails. They may feel just like spam, but many stores will send emails that offer discounts on merchandise to their frequent customers. Lastly, be sure to mark your calendar. Don’t ignore the deals that are often offered every year on days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Timing is a big part of the savings.
- Be Creative. As we are reminded year after year, there’s more than one way to serve cranberries. In the same way, there’s more than one way to give gifts and celebrate the season. If your family hasn’t gotten too large for each person to buy the other a gift, consider Secret Santas and draw names from a hat. If you want to be sure the children have a gift-filled holiday, the names in the hat could all be over a specific age. Another option in lieu of gifts would be to donate to the person’s favorite charity. This can help fix costs, save time on shopping, and costs of wrapping or shipping. Another way to save would be to think about new holiday traditions that are free. Other than some gas and mileage, driving around to look at holiday lights is free. Many churches and local schools offer free holiday concerts. Spend an evening creating your own holiday cards to mail to family and friends. Plenty of options allow you to spend great quality holiday time together without requiring much money.
We know we said “five” tips, but since it’s the season of giving, here’s one more…
Get Started. The sooner you start your holiday shopping, the better. Making some of the holiday gift purchases now will help you spread out the time it takes to pay them off versus having all the gift charges hit you at once. Also, waiting until the last minute can add pressure and contribute to bad choices (both in terms of finances and taste). Without the pressure that comes from procrastinating, you’ll have the time to find the better deals and find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Plus, once you knock out the shopping “to do” list, your more free and open to fully enjoy the holidays.
While we hope this helps you have a little more jingle in your pocket, more importantly, we hope you enjoy this time of year for all that it means. May all the lists, budgets and shopping not distract you from the joy the season brings.