Christmas on a Budget
Halloween is over which means it’s officially socially acceptable to blast Christmas music all day! You may be thinking you have plenty of time until Christmas comes, about 7 1/2 weeks to be exact, but it sneaks up on me every year! And I don’t know about you but any time something becomes rushed usually means I’m more stressed out and I end up spending more money than I’d like. So what if we committed to planning early this year to bring a little bit of joy back?
Here are some areas you can cut your costs this year. I love Christmas as much as the next person but it can really mess you up when it comes to your financial goals. Reducing your costs on some of these or eliminating some of these all together (your neighbors will be ok if you don’t make them all fruitcake this year) could mean you get to where you want to be financially much faster!
The easiest solution to costly holiday travel is just to stay home for the Holidays. Airlines and hotels know they don’t have to discount their prices to get booked up so it’s rare to find a good deal on travel during the holidays. If you don’t want to sacrifice that time with your loved ones, consider doing your Holiday trip in January or another time when it won’t be as expensive and then spend the actual Holiday at home.
If you must travel, drive if at all possible. If flying is the only option book your tickets as soon as possible. Typically with airfare 6-8 weeks before is the best time to buy your tickets, but with the holidays that goes out the window. Just get your tickets as soon as possible because the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost you!
This is a hard one for me. I love giving people gifts. In fact I’m usually the one trying to convince my husband we need to get more gifts for people and he has to rein me in. But if you’re on a tight budget this can add up very quickly. Here are some tips on keeping yourself if check this holiday season:
- Make a list now of everyone you need to shop for and a budget for how much you can spend AND THEN STICK TO IT. Deciding ahead of time how much you’re spending makes it easier for you to plan where the money’s coming from in your budget instead of throwing it all on a credit card and figuring it out later.
- Who are you giving gifts to out of obligation? That neighbor that always brings you a gift? Or maybe your family always exchanges gifts with all the adults and it’s just not in your budget to buy gifts for them all but you feel like you have to? Now is the time to have a conversation with them (insert big girl panties here). Let them know you’re working on some major financial goals this year and you’ll only be doing gifts for the kids this year. They will understand.
- Now that you know who you’re giving gifts to and how much your spending let’s talk shopping! Did you know you can buy gift cards second hand from people that don’t want them and are selling them for less than their value? So why not double up on your savings by buying one of those and then using it when the items you want are on sale? Gift Card Granny shows you where to buy the gift cards that have the biggest discounts to maxmize your savings before you shop. The discounts vary depending on the store but Toys R Us gift cards are currently up to 8% off so if you combine that with your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales you can get a great deal on the gifts you were already going to get.
- Speaking of discounted gift cards, Costco usually offers gift card packs at a discounted price. It typically is something like 5 $20 gift cards to a restaurant or store for $80 so you essentially get 1 of the gift cards free. So if you are getting gift cards for family or friends you can plan to get them all a gift card from the same place to save.
- Do your research on pricing. I usually think of Amazon when it comes to good prices but they’re not always the best. I found something I wanted for my son on Zulily and went to Amazon to compare prices thinking it might be cheaper there and it was actually 40% less on Zulily than on Amazon. Take your time to find the best deal and don’t assume there’s one place overall that has the best prices.
- Think about items your kids might be needing soon anyways instead of just focusing on their wants. To give you an example my daughter is going to be needing a new desk soon so we’re going to ask Santa to bring that for her this year. Take a little time to think about their needs over the next 6 months to a year.
This is another area that can really add up. If you’re like me you want to create all the fun Christmas memories with your family. I’m a firm believer that you can still do this on a budget, you just have to plan it out and budget accordingly. We’re deciding up front what activities we’re going to do as a family this year.
My daughter has been asking us forever to take her to the snow since she’s never seen it before. My brain went straight to booking a cabin in Tahoe for a week, going skiing, sledding and everything stereotypical white Christmas. But I was quickly slapped back into reality when I thought about how expensive that would be. Lodging, food, snow clothes for all of us, pricey lift tickets. So instead, we’re going to buy a cheap plastic snow sled, take a day trip somewhere a little closer and let the kids play until they’re over it (so probably 30 mins) sing some Christmas Carols in the car on the way home, sip some cocoa and call it a day. And you know what? They’re probably going to say it was the best thing ever and I just saved myself thousands of dollars.
The best day to buy Christmas decorations is December 26th. Everything is marked down so much they’re practically giving it away. So if you’ll be needing something for the next year AND you have a little extra in your budget, planning now to be at the store first thing when they open on December 26th is a great idea. If you didn’t do that last year and your decorations are lacking for this Christmas use what you have and be ok with not going all out this year. I remember when my daughter was about 1 we didn’t have a Christmas tree. And we didn’t want to spend $50+ to buy one so we decorated her pack n play we had downstairs for changing her diaper with some garland and a strand of white lights and put the presents on the ground next to it. I know it sounds silly but we just didn’t have the money to spend or the energy to worry about a mobile toddler knocking down a tree so the pack n play worked just fine. We somehow survived without a tree that year.
My point is if you have credit card debt or you are actively working towards your financial goals, you will be so glad that money went towards those things instead of a santa figurine. Big picture friends, big picture.
Just in case you didn’t believe me…. Photo evidence.