Get the most out of the holiday season without going overboard.
✔ Having a budget and sticking to it is the best way to avoid a financial hangover in January
✔ There are inexpensive ways to give gifts, send greetings and create holiday decor
✔ The best time to start planning for the holidays is early in the year, when you can get good deals and have time to save up for the season
It’s easy to go a little wild during the holidays. There are many people on your gift list – and some always seem to pop into your mind at the last minute that you forgot about. Not to mention all the extra spending; on food, parties, other invitations, as well as seasonal décor. But that doesn’t mean that holiday fun in December has to lead to a financial hangover in January. The best way to avoid overspending is to go into the giving season with a budget (and stick to it!). But there are some expenses we can’t avoid during the holidays. Here’s how to keep spending down:
Be a Scrooge with your gift list
It feels good to play Santa, but maybe you’re buying for too many people. Talk to your family and friends – chances are they’re feeling their spending is out of control too. You may decide to only buy gifts for the children and omit presents for adults. If you have a larger family, you can start a new gift-giving tradition by playing Secret Santa. Each person in the group buys for just one other, at an agreed-upon price. At the end of the night, everyone leaves with one gift from someone else.
Gifts don’t need to be expensive
At the end of the day, the best present is your presence. So don’t compete with others or allow yourself to feel like you aren’t giving enough. Think of gifts as thoughtful tokens instead. Better yet, you can give gifts of kindness or effort – such as weekly backrubs for your honey, a full housecleaning for your busy sister or babysitting services for your harried neighbour.
Scrap the holiday cards
Maybe your grandmother or sister appreciate the gesture of receiving an old-fashioned card. But in our digital age, more people are accustomed to not getting snail mail. Ditch the cost of buying or making cards, as well as the postage, which is due for another increase in the new year. That doesn’t mean ignoring friends and family or just sending stock e-cards. Why not craft a holiday newsletter which gives highlights for everyone on your list of all that has happened with your family during the year? Just make sure to make each message personal and heartfelt.
Go shopping in nature
All those beautiful and inspiring displays you see in stores and around town during the holidays can be recreated for virtual no money. Why spend $29.99 for a simple evergreen garland at your grocery store when the fields and forests around you have evergreens, red dogwood branches and all sorts of pine cones? A few clear vases with sprigs of evergreens are the perfect way to dress up a mantel. If you’re crafty you can make your own wreaths and garlands from this natural bounty.
Too soon to start planning next year’s festivities? Here are some tips for year-round holiday planning:
Shop the sales for post-season items
Holiday gifts, décor, wrapping paper – those items get marked down by huge margins as soon as the holidays are over because stores want to clear out the inventory. Go Holiday shopping on Boxing Day, and you could get 70% off or more on these items. Save them for next year!
Start a holiday budget – in January
Treat the new year as a fresh start. Take the amount that you usually spend and save it up throughout the year, maybe in a special holiday account. This helps you in two ways: firstly, when the holidays come you’ll have the money on hand so you won’t need to use a credit card to make your purchases. This will save you money on interest charges in January when it’s time to pay off your credit cards. Secondly, by saving up throughout the year you will have already defined your budget that you can afford to shop with. Stick to this budget, and you’ll be in better control of your holiday spending.