The holiday season is a time of joy and plentitude. Gatherings include family and friends dressed in their best attire; beautifully decorated houses, delicious food, gift exchanges and a chance to reunite with the people you love the most. It is also a time when you spend the most money. Many people end up with debts on which they are still making payments as late as April. Steer clear of this financial blunder. Here are a few quick tips that will help you have a great Christmas minus the financial stress:
1. Agree on a budget – Sit down with your family and decide on a Christmas budget. The budget should be as realistic as possible. Begin by writing down everything you want to do or purchase and calculate the total cost. If it is within the agreed upon budget then proceed to the shopping; if the wish list exceeds the available funds, trim everything that can be trimmed. A great way to trim down costs is by deferring some of the purchases a month or finding alternative gifts.
2. Buy online– Buying online has a greater advantage because it allows consumers a chance to comparison shop in order to take advantage of the best prices. Try purchasing as many items from your shopping list as possible from one site to cut down on your shipping costs or use sites that offer free shipping. Sign up for email offers and reap the rewards of discount shopping.
3. Begin your own traditions – Perhaps your family will agree to a split Christmas holiday. You can celebrate a spillover of Christmas a few weeks later. You can agree on a date about 2 weeks post-Christmas, (or however long is appropriate for your personal circumstance) to buy and exchange gifts. At that time, there may be some super bargains available from a number of stores and you can really have a lot of fun shopping. Plus you get the fun of having your own family Christmas tradition of getting the best value for your money. The idea here is not deprivation but conscience shopping.
4. Make your own gifts – There are thousands of ideas of things you can do as a gift for Christmas. Why not invest in buying some great craft books and supplies and make your own gifts this Christmas. The recipient of your gift will surely appreciate the thoughtfulness, time and effort needed to make their one of kind gift. Making your own gifts can be a lot of fun and a great way to save money in the process. There are also many online forums and websites which have free ideas, templates, step by step guides and recipes for homemade gifts. Homemade gifts can include things like candle holders, cards, pillows, hand scrubs and recipe ingredients. The great part of this is that the gift is personalized to each person’s interest.
5. Buy a beautiful synthetic Christmas tree – Synthetic trees can be quite beautiful and can closely resemble a real tree. It is a cost effective alternative to purchasing a tree year after year as well as an environmentally conscience conservation of deforestation. What better gift to the planet that cradles humanity?
6. Make your own greeting cards – This too allows for fun quality time with the family. Make a list of people to whom you plan to send cards and then make your own at home. Getting the family to do the cards together will, in and of itself, create lasting memories. Once again, if you are not confident about your own ideas or talent, consider investing in a good craft book or visit online forums/ websites which are available free of charge. There is a wealth of free information on the internet.
7. Pay your bills first – Many people try to stretch their budget by postponing the payment of bills. They justify this behavior by wrongly thinking “what if I need more money for gifts later?” Do not allow yourself to fall into this self- imposed financially misled coaxing. This is how you get into debt; pay your bills first. Use the remaining money for the Christmas shopping, not the other way around.
8. Use cash-back sites when shopping online – Register for sites like Ebates.com http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=Ec1EsAUoKLjR%2B153S4l65g%3D%3D, Bing www.bing.com, or other sites that offer rewards for shopping through their websites at your already favorite stores. Some sites, like upromise.com, even offer customers the ability to save for a child’s education through the cash back rewards and savings program.
9. Have a quick garage sale – Many people choose the holiday season to give their homes a good once over. Why not use this time to de-clutter as well? Hold a garage sale with the items that you have no use for but that are still in good condition. You may be surprised with the extra cash you make for the holiday season.
10. Use credit cards that offer cash-back rewards– If you are going to shop with your credit cards and are certain that you will be able to repay the debt in one installment, consider using a credit card which offers cash- back incentives or other type of reward. However, only incur a debt you are able to repay immediately. Getting a cash back reward is futile if you end up paying more in interest charges.
As you can see, saving money this holiday season does not need to “break the bank.” All it takes is some proper planning and a little ingenuity.