From Halloween to New Year and beyond, most of us have a costly festive season worthy of listing on our yearly family budget. Following up on our previous post, here are a few additional ways you can stretch your wallet during the Holiday season!
1) Opt for free or inexpensive activities. Take the opportunity to teach your kids that the holidays are not about how much money you spend
a) Christmas lights tour
b) Holiday movie and hot chocolate at home
d) Seeing Santa at the mall (or playing dress-up for the kids)
e) Making Christmas crafts for friends and family
g) Reading Christmas stories
h) Watching a school or church play or holiday choir performance
j) Checking local deals online or in the newspaper for discounts on holiday attractions
k) Volunteering together
l) Visiting family
m) Taking your kids to a religious or cultural event to teach the meaning behind the celebration
2) Host a potluck!
How much fun is it to decorate your home, cook, and invite all your family and friends over for Christmas? A lot, right? How much does it cost? A LOT. Think about all the ingredients, decorations, dressy clothes for you and the kids, and not to mention the time it takes to plan, shop, clean, prep, cook, serve, entertain, and clean up.
Now consider asking each guest family to bring a dish to your event. One dish is not much to ask considering the time and effort you spend just to host the event at your house. Most people are glad to do it too, as it gives them an opportunity to showcase their specialty, and they feel like they are helping- they really are! Prepare the main dish yourself and either ask your guests to bring an appetizer, side, dessert, or drinks, or assign items so you don’t get duplicates.
Another idea is to assign games, activities, or maybe even a holiday play to the older kids or young adults in the family. That way everyone is involved, the kids have a tradition to plan and play out while the adults prep, clean, or sit around the table and chat, and you don’t have to worry about keeping everyone entertained.
3) Beware of sales and BOGO offers!
A “sale” sign does not mean the item is being sold at a discount, or that it is cheaper at this store than it would be somewhere else. People are often pressured into buying items they don’t need simply because they are on “sale.” BOGOs, are “Buy One, Get One (free, half off, etc.)” deals that can trick you into spending more money than you should. Retailers may mark one item way up to make up the difference and trick you into a purchase. Often, you don’t really need two of the item anyway. Don’t let a bold, colorful sign or an email to warn you about a sale’s end fool you into buying items you don’t need or pressure you into purchasing items now. Do your research, shop around, and only buy the items on your list and things you absolutely need!
4) Give yourself a limit… and stop when you’ve reached it!
We previously advised that you write down an itemized budget. It’s understood that you may leave things out and think of additional necessities while you’re out shopping, but that’s what the “wiggle room” money in your budget is for. Know your limits and don’t exceed them. Once you’ve tackled your shopping list, stop! Organize your receipts, clean your house, get your wrapping done, or just kick your feet up, put on a holiday movie, and drink some cocoa. Your work is done and you DON’T need to spend any more. Christmas should not break the bank and stress you out.
5) Last, but maybe actually first (and definitely not least), give yourself a head start.
It is never too early to start budgeting for an upcoming event or specific period of time. Go over your spending during the last holiday season and notice the unnecessary expenses and places you may be able to cut back. Lose some friends… just kidding! On a serious note, get a head start by learning from previous mistakes, budgeting early, and staying on that budget. Also consider shopping for December in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November. There are TWELVE months in a year. Who says you have to buy all the presents during the last one and go into the first of next year completely broke and stressed out? Consider the following:
a) Have a budget for each month. Work a few Christmas gift purchases into each month, so you don’t dump an immense burden and expense on yourself in the last few weeks of the year.
b) It’s not always easy to think of good gifts for everyone. Be attentive to the needs of others throughout the year! You may think of a great gift idea during a conversation with your mom in the middle of June. Make note and put it in you July or August budget. You’ll be helping yourself with a head start on holiday shopping while simultaneously getting a meaningful and much needed gift for your mom. Come Christmas, she’ll be surprised that you were paying attention to an actual need she had mentioned months ago.
c) There are usually deals on holiday décor and unsold themed gifts immediately after the Christmas season. Buy for next year at a super discounted price. Put that in your budget for December!
d) Use plastic (and pay it off at the end of each month). If you’re budgeting correctly ahead of time, you can use your credit card for gift purchases throughout the year, and as long as you’re paying it off each month, it will help build your credit while keeping you ahead of the curve for the holiday season!
Don’t get caught up in spending for the holidays. If you plan and budget ahead of time, you can save money and eliminate stress, all while still getting everything you need and freeing up time to spend with your family and friends. After all, that’s what the holiday season is all about!