Christmas – the Magical time of love, and joy and giving.
Unfortunately, for many of us, it is the most expensive time of year too. If you feel that you have more cheer than cash this season, do not worry! There are plenty of ways to save money during the holiday season, while having the best Christmas ever!
Here are 40 Smart Strategies to stay in budget this Christmas:
1. Start budgeting for the holiday season today
Before getting to any Christmas money savings tactics, decide how much money, realistically, you would like to spend on the holiday festivities, including Christmas decorations, entertaining, gifts, Christmas cards, etc… When you figure out how much money you want to spend, let’s see what you can do to stay within your budget!
2. Help out Santa with gifts this year
Instead of buying expensive gifts for your family and friends, make them yourself! Believe me, there are hundreds of inexpensive home-made gift ideas that literally anyone can do! Why spend hours in the mall, waiting in huge lines, when you can make gifts that are personal, meaningful, inexpensive and above all, fun to do. ( You can find homemade gift ideas here and here)
3. Opt for cool, rather than expensive!
Think of cool, funny and inexpensive gifts that you can give to your family members and friends. There are plenty of great gadgets, personalized mugs, and funny quote books for under $5- $10.
4. Give a framed picture
Nowadays, when most of us have digital cameras, it seems we never have time to print our pictures and frame them. Maybe this is why a good picture, beautifully framed is a gift that so many people appreciate!
Go through your stuff and see if there are any presents that you have received, won or got with the latest promotions that you are not planning on using. Think of who might like these gifts!
6. Make an inventory before holiday gift shopping
Think back: Did you buy any gifts at last year’s post-holiday sales? Are there any gifts that you purchased a while ago and stashed away waiting for the right occasion to give them? This Christmas can be a great opportunity to free some room in your closets, while saving money on Christmas shopping!
7. Look for sales
Before buying any present at a regular price, see if you can find it on sale. There are numerous websites that allow you to compare prices and offer discount coupons for just about anything you might need!
Everyone loves a sweet treat at Christmas, so borrow your grandma’s amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe, bake your favorite sweets and candies, package them in pretty paper and voila – you then have perfect holiday gifts that your neighbors and colleagues will love! (Check out baked goods ideas here)
9. Save Money on Christmas Decorations
Just as you can make your gifts, you can make your decorations as well. Get together with your friends or with your family members and make your own ornaments and decorations for this Christmas. For example, pine cones and colorful candies make “environmental friendly” and great-looking decorations!
10. Watch less TV
This might sound a bit strange, but just by watching less TV this month, you will save yourself a lot of money! Think about it – no guilt-inducing TV ads, no whining children asking for expensive gifts that they have just seen on a Cartoon network channel, and a lot more free family fun time!
11. Buy presents as you go
If you accidentally see an inexpensive universal present that many people from your list would like – Buy it! This way you will easily have a few extra presents to give to your relatives or friends for Christmas.
12. Plan ahead!
If you are frantically looking for presents a week before Christmas, the chances are that you will spend much more money and still will not find the right presents. Do not procrastinate this year! Start your Christmas preparations in advance!
13. Hide your credit cards
Credit cards are good to keep in case of “emergencies”. Christmas shopping is not an “emergency”, therefore, take your credit card out of your wallet and hide it in your desk. Use cash to buy your presents. That way you will have a better idea of your budget and expenditures.
I remember that when I first came to Italy some of my Italian friends gave me gifts wrapped in colorful magazine papers and brown eco paper. I thought these were the most original and interesting gift packages I have ever received! This Christmas you can do the same and surprise your friends and family with stylish-looking packaging that does not cost a dime!
15. Do not spend money just to de-stress
When you feel stressed out after a day at work, instead of going shopping and blowing your hard-earned money on things you do not need, spend time meditating, playing with your children or cooking! You will feel much better, without hurting the family budget!
16. Do holiday shopping right after the holidays
If you did not have time to buy all of your Christmas presents in advance, wait until right after the Holidays to buy everything with a 50-70% discount.
17. Give away books!
Inspirational books are great and inexpensive presents that most people like to receive. And if you write a dedication inside, the book becomes even more valuable to the person you are giving it to!
18. Reflect before buying
Before hitting “add to your cart” button or buying something in a store, take ten seconds to answer whether you really need this product or is it an impulsive buy? If you can not find a good reason for buying it, put the item back! This method alone will save you a lot of money by the end of the month.
19. Keep a notebook for your gift ideas!
This is how I do it – I write down the name of every single person that I want to give a gift to for Christmas and then I write down gift ideas for each person. I can not tell you how helpful it has been during the past few years. First, you will not forget anyone. Second, you do not have to keep everything that you have bought and still need to buy in your head. Third, it is a great way to put your original and clever present ideas together.
20. Do not pay for your Christmas tree
While artificial Christmas trees might not have the real Christmas smell, they are reusable, there is no endless vacuuming of pine needles and, more importantly, you help to save more live trees, while saving money!
21. Redeem your credit card rewards
I know that I said, you should put your credit card away for the Christmas period. But if you have some rewards “points” that you can spend, it is a good reason to take your credit card out once and convert them into gift cards or cash.
22. Learn to say ‘no’
How often does a drink after work turn into an expensive night out? Or how often do we capitulate to the demands of screaming children in a “Toys’ R’ Us” store? Simply avoiding the situations where you have to spend money and saying ‘no’ a few times will save you a lot of money in the long run, not just for Christmas.
23. Do the “Secret Santa” lottery at work
The fact is your colleagues are probably stressing about their Christmas finances just as much as you are. So instead of buying 10 separate gifts for each person you work with, suggest getting together beforehand and doing a “Secret Santa” lottery. This is how it works – each colleague picks one name from a hat and buys a present for this person only.
24. Do not buy so many clothes
Clothes seem like the easiest solution for Christmas. But honestly, does your spouse need another shirt? Do your kids need matching sweaters? There are much cheaper and much more fun gifts than clothing items to buy. You just have to get a little more creative!
25. Watch out for three-for-two deals
While I am a big believer in saving money and buying products on sale, “three-for-two” deals are one of the effective ways of enticing us into buying one, if not two, extra items that we would not normally buy. So the next time you see “buy two, get one for free” offer, ask yourself if you really want to buy 3 items with a 30% discount?
26. Get ‘group’ discounts
Stretch your gift budget by purchasing from sites that discount – 50 to 90 percent – when a certain number of people agree to buy together. (I’ve heard that Jasmere.com, woot.com, and tippr.com sell items and services at wallet-friendly prices.)
27. Shop online!
Avoid the stress of crowded malls and stay away from mile-long lines to the stores’ cash registers, by shopping right from your home, getting better deals and using comparison websites to save tons of money!
28. Time your holiday gift shopping right
If you absolutely have to go to a mall, avoid the busiest working hours and shop early in the morning or later at night during the weekend. It also helps to know exactly what you are looking for and which department stores you would like to visit.
29. Stay within budget!
When we get into a spirit of giving, it is easy to spend more than we can afford. Be smart about the gifts you are giving. Do not buy your spouse something outrageously expensive or try to keep up appearances by getting your friend a gift equal to what she gave you last year. Keep in mind that it is the thought that counts!
30. Make extra cash selling stuff you do not need on eBay
Most of us have a lot of unneeded clutter lying around our house, from clothes that we have not worn for the past 3 years, to the kids’ old toys, to a workout machine that collects dust in our garage. So the real question is, why cluttering our house, when we can sell these unneeded things on Ebay or Craig’s list to someone who will use them?
They say, “out of the sight, out of the mind!” And that is so true! If we do not see something, we will never know how much we actually wanted it. Spend less time window shopping around Christmas, and you will not have to stay awake at night, thinking “To buy or not to buy?”
32. Dig into upcoming community events!
Instead of going to the movies or shopping centers for entertainment look for information on community events and plan your weekends around them. I know that the city I live in offers plenty of activities and fun events, like concerts, exhibitions, Christmas markets and courses that do not cost a thing! I bet there are tons of free events going on in your town that you do not even know about.
33. Arrange group gifts whenever you can
Very often buying a “group” gift for your boss, your teacher or your family friends is much cheaper and much less stressful than buying separate gifts and Christmas cards!
34. Invite friends over instead of going out
Almost every activity at home is less expensive than going out. Invite your good friends over for a meal. Everyone will have fun in the relaxed and warm atmosphere, without having to spend money on restaurants, drinks, and movies.
35. Buy presents in bulk!
A simple example of buying presents in a bulk would be to buy for example a case of wine, and giving a bottle to different people on your holiday list.
36. Do not buy holiday gifts for yourself
I know! That sounds cruel and unfair. There is a little voice in the back of our mind that says, “What about me? I deserve a gift too.” You do! Absolutely! But why buy it yourself, when you can ask your friends to chip in and buy it for you?
37. Give your “Favorite Things”
My friend shared this tip with me and I just love it. Instead of spending money on meaningless and impersonal gifts, you can put together ‘baskets’ of presents, filled with your favorite things. For example, last year my friend gave me a stocking full of the sweets that we adored when we were little. I could not have cared less how much she had spent on this present. To me it was priceless!
Call your best friends and invite them for a Christmas card party. Ask each person to bring something to munch on, and on your part provide drinks, pens, colorful crayons and paper for making the Christmas cards. This is a great way to catch up on the latest news, have fun and make personalized Holiday cards.
39. Share a Christmas!
Instead of donating money to local communities get together with your friends and do a public service project together for the holidays. Cook some food for the local homeless shelter, offer to help with yard work and Christmas decorations for an elderly couple in your neighborhood, take toys to children whose parents can not afford to have Christmas this year. This is what the true spirit of Christmas is all about!
40. Help your friends save money by sending this article to them!
If you think that your friends are worried about Christmas spending, send them these Christmas saving tips!