Everyone looks forward to the holiday season…the special foods, parties and decorations, the hot cocoa, Christmas music, spinning dreidels, and celebrations of Kwanzaa just warm our hearts. But the holidays often bring stress and pressure to over-spend. Fancy meals, pricey gifts and over-the-top decorating can easily break the bank. This year, take charge and make a change!
1) Establish a budget and start saving money throughout the year. It will be much easier on your wallet. Many banks still offer the old-fashioned, but tried-and-true Holiday Club that automatically takes a small deposit each month from your checking account. Chances are you won’t even miss the small monthly withdrawal. Even just $ 5 per week put into an envelope gives you $250 to spend at the end of the year.
2) Start a master “holiday to-do list.” List all the planned activities and materials you will need for baking, decorating and entertaining. Include a new pair of shoes or a new outfit if you don’t want to be seen in the same outfit as last year! Work with your list to make sure your budget stays balanced across the categories.
3) Watch for sales and purchase as many items as possible ahead of time. This helps to spread out the spending during the entire year and only leaves a few things to buy in the last month or two, when both time and money are short. Great deals can often be found on those red sparkly sweaters in the off-season.
4) If you are planning to give gifts, make a list of recipients and establish a reasonable budget ahead of time. Buy on sale during the back-to-school sales and when stores are having special promotions. Keep a list of what you purchase handy so as not to buy two gifts for the same person. As much as they would appreciate it, your wallet might not!
5) Reduce your gift budget: no, don’t buy really cheap and cheesy gifts, but rather, call your friends and family before Thanksgiving and see who will agree to purchase gifts only for the children and not the adults. You might be pleasantly surprised when you hear your family say that they feel the same way you do about budgeting. With the extra cash, you may be able to splurge on a something special for your children or buy tickets to a special holiday show.
6) Making gifts for people is wonderful as long as it doesn’t break bank. Homemade gifts sometimes turn out to be more expensive than purchased gifts. Pinterest and other DIY websites have great ideas, BUT, make sure to check out the price of all the materials you will need to make a project before you jump in.
7) If you are on a tight budget, baking cookies, making pickles or other homemade food gifts can be very inexpensive and fun for the family to do together. People have a tendency to forget about gifts, but they never forget homemade treats that came from the heart and your kitchen.
8) Give a service coupon for a day of housecleaning, painting, babysitting or weeding the garden. This can be fun for adults or kids and can be rewarding for people with specialty skills (faux finishing or landscape design) to share their skills with a family member or friends who could not necessarily afford it otherwise.
9) Schedule a day to put up your decorations up. Review your holiday decorations before you feel inclined to buy more and get rid of anything broken or anything that you do not plan on using any longer. Make room for new items selectively, or better yet, downsize!
10) Dig through your family photos and find a few “gems”: that family reunion at the beach 20 years ago, Grandma’s 90th birthday party with all the kids eating cake together. Have them enlarged into 8 x 10s (or larger) and find or make an inexpensive frame. Instantly turn a treasured memory into a personal and heartwarming gift.
We sure hope these eight tips for stress-free holiday spending season will help your financial stress level and your sanity. Even if you get a just a couple tips under your belt, it can make a world of difference! Be sure to schedule some time off for yourself to balance the holiday craziness and enjoy the Season.