It may seem too early to start thinking about Christmas, but the more time you leave yourself to plan, the more money you can save.
Christmas is supposed to be a fun and festive time of year – spending time with friends and family, splurging on second helpings of dessert, reminiscing about Christmases past.
It’s NOT supposed to be stressful.
But if you’re struggling with your money, it definitely can be.
All the gifts and parties and celebrations can quickly break your budget and land you in debt.
Here are some
Make a Plan
Most of us already plan out the celebrations we want to enjoy and the gifts we want to give. But have you ever pre-planned your spending?
This Christmas, instead of closing your eyes and hoping for the best, make a plan for your money.
Pick an amount you’re comfortable spending and transfer it into a separate Christmas savings account.
Now, when a Christmas expense pops up, you can only spend money out of that account.
Track Your Spending
Having a plan is the first step. Sticking to it is the next.
If you want to make sure you don’t overspend this Christmas, you need to channel your inner Santa and live by your list.
You should have a list of expected expenses and approximately how much you want to spend on each of them.
If your gift list isn’t broken down by person/family, make sure you do that too.
Then make sure you stick to your list.
The easiest way to do this is to pull out your Christmas savings and divvy it up into cash envelopes.
It’s sooo easy to spoil your loved ones either with more gifts, or something more expensive but perfect.
Using cash will make keep this temptation in check and force you to make deliberate spending decisions.
You can still buy that perfect gift even if it’s more expensive, but you’ll have to cut back somewhere else if you don’t want to run out of cash.
Start Shopping Early
Getting an early start on your Christmas shopping is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t overspend.
It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday fervor that comes around Thanksgiving.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas music over the loudspeakers.
It’s hard not to want to spend more money the closer you get to Christmas.
By shopping early you’ll not only avoid the psychological impact of shopping during the holiday season, but you can also get creative with saving money on gifts by taking advantage of off-season deals.
Clearance Candy Hack
My favorite gift hack is to buy holiday candy when it goes on sale after the holiday.
For example, by buying Halloween candy just after Halloween you can easily get 50-70% off!
And no, I’m not suggesting you stuff your kid’s stocking full of Halloween glow-in-the-dark bags of M&Ms.
But this is where your creativity comes in.
You can easily repackage those M&Ms into other more festive DIY gifts.
Stocking stuffers used to be my favorite thing to shop for.
My sister-in-law and I would run to Walmart on Christmas Eve and just grab as many cheap items as we could that we thought would be either helpful or get a laugh.
But since we moved and it’s just my little family of 3 now, I’ve noticed over the years that those “cheap” little gifts not only start to add up in cost, but they also tend to become instant clutter and eventually trash.
I don’t like throwing money away, and that’s basically what we were doing.
So now instead of waiting until the last minute, I keep my eyes peeled for discounted “perfect sized” gifts that let me fill a stocking cheaply.
Some things I’ve used to stuff our stockings include:
- a yo-yo
- a deck of cards
- smaller notebooks
- Post-Its (I have to fill my stocking too ;o)
- pens, pencils, and erasers (we homeschool so I know they’ll get used)
By thinking ahead, I can combine these with my clearance candy hack and fill up our stockings relatively cheaply, but with things we’ll actually use. Win-win!
Create New Free (or Cheaper) Family Traditions
The holidays are all about traditions for me. But some can come with a hefty price tag.
Here are some ways I’ve found to enjoy them without overspending.
Most of my holiday memories revolve around food (mmm…sweet potato pie).
But putting on a full, fancy meal can be super pricy depending on how many people you’re feeding and how much food you’re cooking.
That’s why I love doing potluck dinners.
I come from a big family, and eventually, as it continued to grow, we shifted to the potluck approach.
With everybody responsible for bringing just one dish, the costs were spread out and minimal.
But the enjoyment wasn’t diminished at all. In fact, it was more enjoyable not having to rotate houses and force all the work on one person each year.
If you’ve got enough people you’re celebrating with, a potluck is not only a cheap way to entertain, it’s fun too!
When we moved to the desert, we didn’t think we’d be creating a Christmas tradition of visiting the North Pole.
But that’s exactly what happened!
Once we discovered we could visit Santa’s workshop, it became an instant tradition.
But it’s a costly one, so I’m always looking for other cheap and free options to keep us on budget.
Some of my favorites are:
- Driving around different neighborhoods to see the lights
- Putting up our own lights (we budget a set amount to add to/replace decorations each year)
- Writing letters to Santa
- Creating handmade cards to send to family
- Having an indoor
- Making Christmas cookies (or a gingerbread house if you’re talented like that)
You can check out my 12 Days of Free Christmas Fun for even more ideas.
Have a DIY Christmas
Another great way to save money at Christmas is to focus on DIY projects.
What are some things you can either make yourself or services you can gift to others?
And if you’re not particularly crafty or handy, you can still get creative by gifting experiences.
Coordinate Cheaper Gift Exchanges
One of the biggest budget busters around the holidays is getting sucked into every gift exchange around.
Consider this your heads up to either save in advance or head them off by suggesting one of these cheaper ideas.
For a white elephant gift exchange, you’re only responsible for buying one gift, and there’s usually a price cap.
Then the basic gameplay is:
- Everyone draws a number to determine what order they’ll go in.
- The first person opens a present.
- The next person decides if they want to open a present or “steal” one that’s already been opened.
- If a person’s gift is stolen, they get to go again.
- Play continues until all gifts are opened.
The few white elephants I’ve participated in have been a blast, and they were all a little different.
You can adjust and adapt the rules as needed. Just make sure you clarify them before play begins.
Secret Santa exchanges are another cheap option you can propose to save some money on gifts.
This gift exchange is especially good for larger groups.
With a Secret Santa, each person draws someone else’s name and is responsible for buying them a gift.
These also usually have a spending limit.
There’s a bit more pressure with a Secret Santa to buy something the recipient will want since you know who you’re buying for.
You probably don’t want to buy a random gift like you might in a White Elephant.
Tired of trying to figure out what to get your great aunt or 2nd cousin who you only ever see at Christmas?
Try pitching the idea of a kids-only gift exchange where only the children get gifts.
Depending on the size of your family, this may still be costly, but it’s definitely an improvement on having to buy for all the adults too.
We adopted the 4-Gift Rule last year, and it was fantastic!
As much as I loved seeing a tree with presents overflowing beneath it on Christmas morning, I was getting tired of seeing those gifts sitting on my coffee table months later still in the box.
Maybe it’s just my kid, but his attention span is about 2 seconds, and his interests seem to change just as quickly.
So to save money and my sanity, we adopted the 4-gift rule:
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something to wear
- Something to read
Not only did we save money, everything we did buy was (and in some cases continues to be) used.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of gifts given with good intentions, but that maybe don’t suit us for one reason or another.
Instead of pretending that bunny suit is your favorite gift ever, decide to throw a guilt-free re-gift exchange.
Everyone is encouraged to re-gift something they don’t want. You can even combine it with a White Elephant approach to make it more fun.
Just be clear there’s no guilt tripping or hurt feelings allowed.
Practice Group Gifting
A great way to save money on gifts is to practice group gifting.
There are two ways to do this:
Go in with a group to give a gift
Giving gifts as a group usually takes the form of a larger value gift.
But just because the end product is more expensive, doesn’t mean your contribution will be.
For example, say your nephew is getting a new car.
Instead of sending him a $50 check to buy what he wants, you get to contribute a license plate frame and some fuzzy dice to help reveal the surprise. And those only cost you $30.
So you not only get to participate in giving the big gift, but you’re saving $20 in the process.
Give a group gift
One of my favorite ways to save on gifts has been to group people and give them a gift to use together.
I like to group my family by household, that way instead of giving every single person a gift I’m only shopping for each household.
For the past couple of years, this has usually been a family night theme (popcorn and Redbox gift card or a board game and snacks) or a tasty gift box of assorted treats.
You can save a fortune with this tactic, especially if you have a large family.
Save When You Shop
There’s no rule that says you have to pay full price for gifts.
Here are some ways you can save money when you shop.
How to Get the Best Deals
It may seem obvious to shop when there’s a sale, but it pays to do your research.
Stores have a tricky little habit of raising prices right before they have a sale, so they’re not really discounting anything.
Or they may artificially inflate the “retail price” they cross out on the sales flyer so it really only looks like a deal.
You won’t know unless you’ve been paying attention.
Some steps you can take:
Sign up for store emails
It can be annoying sorting through an inbox full of store ads, but it’s a great way to comparison shop.
Make sure you archive, not delete, old sales ads so you can search to see if something you want has been on sale and for how much.
I’d suggest creating a new email at Gmail just to use for promotional emails to make this an easier process (and to keep you sane when dealing with your personal email).
Research past Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals
Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be very tempting and can quickly empty your Christmas savings if you’re not careful.
In order to save money instead of going bankrupt during Thanksgiving weekend, make sure you’ve got your list, and you DO NOT stray from it.
Because this weekend has such notoriety around it, you might not actually get the best deal.
Stores know people will be out shopping and they’re not really incentivized to reduce all their prices, just enough to get you in the door.
Take a look at some prior Black Friday ads to see if anything on your list might be a contender for a big discount.
Comparison shop/track prices
It’s always a good idea to comparison shop.
Even if you have a specific store you want to buy from, most will price match the deals from their competitors.
Also, to make sure you don’t miss a deal, sign up for price alerts on CamelCamelCamel.
You can also use CamelCamelCamel to see a history of price changes on Amazon to get an idea of what a good deal price might be.
Get Cash Back
There are several ways you can save money by how you shop, not just when.
Use rebate apps and sites
By using their links, they earn a commission on your sale. They then split it with you. Win-win.
Use reward credit cards
If you use a credit card, make sure it’s a cash back one.
You can earn 2-5% on most cash back credit cards. Sometimes more if the purchases are made in certain categories.
Also, don’t forget to check your credit card account to see if they’re offering any promotions.
Our Amex card regularly has several stores that offer cash back for use.
For example, I bought a $50 gift card to Five Guys for a family member, and just by using my Amex to purchase it, I got $20 back as a statement credit. (Note, you DO need to activate store offers via your online account)
Buy Discount Gift Cards
Another great way to save is by buying discounted gift cards.
While you could just give someone a discounted gift card as a gift, you can also buy discount gift cards for the stores you plan to shop at, saving money that way as well.
Stack the Savings
It’s entirely possible to stack the savings tips above to save even more money.
Let’s say you’re looking to fill your pup’s stocking. You know PetSmart is having a good sale based on the emails they’ve been sending you.
- Step 1 – Go check
Raiseto see if there are any discounted gift cards.
- Step 2 – Check your credit card account to see if they’re offering a deal.
- Step 3 – Head over to Rakuten and click to shop at PetSmart. (Check if they have any discount codes to use while you’re there)
- Step 4 – Shop.
- Step 5 – Use your discounted gift card and pay any remaining balance with your cash back credit card.
Sign Up for
Don’t think that once you’ve spent the money, you’re done with the savings.
Paribus is a service that will track your purchases to make sure if the price drops after the fact, you’ll get a rebate.
They’ll also monitor Amazon shipments to make sure they’re delivered on time.
If you’re paying for Prime delivery and they don’t deliver,
Saving money on Christmas doesn’t mean you have to buy cheap Christmas gifts or disappear until the festivities are over.
Use the tips, tactics, and strategies above to save money this holiday season.
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