Here they come again: the holidays. For some reason, even those of us who manage to keep a tight rein on the budget the other 11 months of the year lose control at the sound of a Christmas bell. The bills roll in come February and then the trouble really starts, but all is forgotten by November and the cycle starts again. If you still have at least a faint memory of those dreadful bills, here are some great ways to save a bit of green and still have a great holiday.
I know it sounds cliche, but there is no reason not to plan ahead and make some gifts this year. Everyone has some talent they can use, be it knitting, baking, or computer skills. Use these skills to create a unique gift for your loved ones and friends.
Last year I started in August and made a pair of hand knit socks for each friend. I got the yarn at an outlet store and I had a lovely gift for less than $10 a person. My friend hit the fabric store and picked up fleece on sale with a coupon. She made tie blankets for everyone for about the same amount. These gifts are more personal and less expensive than any of the junk you can find at the mall.
Form a Gift Exchange Group
Do you have a number of common friends in your circle? Create a gift exchange circle. Set a price limit and have a random pot to see who purchases for whom. Plan a pot luck dinner at someone’s home a week before the holiday, so it doesn’t conflict with family plans, and exchange the gifts. I, for one, would much rather spend $20 for a single decent gift than have to purchase eight $3 gifts. It strains my creativity less, not to mention my wallet.
Dealing with the Teacher Issue
Come the holidays, kids are faced with a need to purchase something for each of their teachers. Thankfully, this ridiculous trend ends with elementary school. I have had years where each of my three children had between 6-13 teachers. Can you imagine what that would have cost?
Instead of having a million little cheap gifts to present to the teachers, one parent coordinated a collection. With 30 students in the class we were able to give the main teacher a $50 gift certificate and then add a $30 gift certificate with a very small individual contribution. Yes, this takes a bit of coordination and time, but is well worth it.
What about Work?
Fortunately, many employers are placing a moratorium on gift giving for the holiday season. If you find that you have to give a gift, try to purchase an appropriate gift certificate when the store or restaurant is offering a special. Many places offer an additional $5-10 of gift money when you purchase $100. Split that total onto several cards. It isn’t extravagant, but it is a nice gift that doesn’t cost too much.
If you know well in advance who will be on your shopping list, you can always pick things up throughout the year to lessen the blow at year’s end. One of the catches is keeping the receipt to prevent problems with necessary exchanges. Others include not being able to estimate sizes that far in advance, remembering where you stored that gift, and opting not to exchange with those people by the time Christmas rolls around.
The holidays are a stressful period and adding financial problems to them doesn’t help. No matter what you do, set yourself an affordable budget and stick to it. You won’t regret leaving that porcelain Santa on the shelf nearly as much as you will paying 18-26% interest in February.
This is part of the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, which is free for all MoneyNing newsletter subscribers (also free). The ebook is already over 40 pages and will continually be updated and expanded. Grab your copy today, or find out more about it by clicking here.