It’s hard to think about Christmas when Thanksgiving is still more than two weeks away. Enjoy this time of year to be thankful for your family, your health and the gift of friendship. The holidays should never be about Christmas lists and spending money but more about spending time together. Since that is easier said than done we can use this time of year to save our money and create a holiday spending budget. You’ll be thankful you did. Here are some tips to help curb your holiday spending without looking like a cheapskate.
Family grab bag or Secret Santa – opting for the family grab bag or Secret Santa will enable you to get one nice gift for someone rather than many “it’s the thought that counts” type gifts for the whole family. A grab bag is when everyone brings a generic gift and you exchange gifts either by picking them out of a bag or assigning a number to a gift then picking numbers from a hat. A Secret Santa is when you pick a name out of a hat in advance and buy a gift specifically for that person.
Discount stores – you’d be surprised by the big name brands you can find at discount stores such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory and others. Last year I bought my husband a gorgeous $275 Tommy Bahama watch for $29.99 (and yes, it works). No one needs to know where you bought it and they’ll think you spent big.
Don’t wait to the last minute – Nothing drives overspending like panic. Waiting until the last minute causes you to overspend for two main reasons: 1. you are in a hurry to get your hands on anything and price comparing is no longer an option and 2. you wind up spending more than you planned because the item you wanted to purchase was no longer available in the size, color or platform you needed.
Keep the credit cards at home – set a budget, bring cash and spend wisely – Credit cards lead to a nasty case of “the might-as-wells” as in I might as well spend more than my budget because I’m too lazy to be a frugal shopper. Using cash makes you very aware of your spending and it’s a good habit to get into all year round.
Consider a family gift rather than individual gifts for each family member. Some examples include an ice cream maker and a set of ice cream bowls; a DVD rental gift card and a gift basket with a popcorn bowl, candies, 3-D glasses, etc.
Make an agreement with your extended family to only buy for the kids. Everyone is having a rough time these days. For us parents, the real gift is seeing the joy of Christmas through our children’s eyes. Do we really need another cheap sweater or smelly bath set from Uncle Bob and Aunt Carol? Someone needs to speak up. Suggest to the family that if you have kids you should be scratched off the gift list. I’m sure many family members will be glad you spoke up. Christmas isn’t all about getting presents, especially ones you never use.
Do spend some money on an item you can use year after year. My fondest Christmas memories were the annual visits from Santa. Every Christmas Eve, Santa would show up after dinner and bring “cannolis from the North Pole.” He would give everyone a treat and tell us to save one for him because he’d be back later. That Santa suit has been passed from my uncle to my cousins to my brother and was an investment that brings joy and tradition for generations in our family.
I hope these tips are useful. Please feel free to share your own holiday spending and saving suggestions.