If there’s one time of year when it’s easiest to go overboard with spending, it’s December. The parties, the presents, all that holiday paraphernalia – if you don’t mind your budget, you’ll be broke by the time Santa shimmies his caboose down your chimney. You don’t have to go out like a Grinch though. Make a plan early on how you’ll conserve cash this holiday season while still being able to have a ton of fun. Peep these 10 ways to save money this month, and let me know how you’ll cut back in December in the comments below.
1. Create a Solid Budget for Your Holiday Gift-Buying List
Before you hit even a single store, it’s important to sit down and create a budget for the gifts you plan to buy this holiday season. One of the biggest money-sucking culprits this time of year is impulse buying, and you’re highly susceptible if you’re shopping blindly, picking up gifts here and there without consideration of your overall budget. This method is a fast way to zap your funds, causing you to overspend. Instead, be prepared. Take an hour or so and think about everybody on your list, what you’d like to buy them, and how much each item costs, so you can plan your budget accordingly.
2. Check Your List Twice, and Make Reductions and Cuts
I love giving gifts, but my affinity for it has caused me to spend more than I should at holiday time. This year, avoid that trap by making a list and checking it twice to see where you can pare it down and save money. I bet there are at least a couple people for whom you can make a gift instead of spending cash on them, and perhaps there are a couple that you can cut entirely. Another great gifting idea – especially if you have a large family – is to institute a Secret Santa program where you and your relatives each pick family members’ names from a hat and only buy a gift for that particular person. Huge time and money saver, yet everyone still gets a great gift to enjoy.
3. Decide For Whom You Can Make Homemade Gifts
In addition to paring down the list of people for whom you’re buying gifts, take a look at some of the names to see where a homemade gift would be perfectly appropriate. Your neighbors, mailman, hairdresser, and other acquaintances will appreciate a thoughtful gift from you, but it doesn’t have to be a pricey, store-bought item. Instead, put together a basket of goodies – like from-scratch cookies, cakes, and brownies – that they can enjoy and share with their own families.
4. Plan Your Shopping Attack With Gift Cards, Coupons and Other Incentives
Now that your list is settled and solid, you can start planning your assault on the unsuspecting aisles of your favorite stores. You first move should be to scour all the circulars in your area to see what deals are offered and clip any associated coupons. Keep an eye out for other incentives too – like gift cards offered for buying certain items – that can help reduce the price of another item later on. Next, head to the stores’ websites to see what kind of savings are offered there; you might find a better deal online on an additional coupon that you can stack when you’re at the store. Savings apps also are a great resource this time of year to help you get more bang for your buck. See if your store has an app with mobile coupons that could help shave a few more pounds off the price.
5. Pay for Gifts in Cash
It’s very easy to go end up in a tailspin of credit card spending when you’re blinded by all the seemingly great deals leading up to the holidays. But are they really great deals if three months from now you’re paying more in interest than the actual items cost because you put them on plastic? Head that problem off at the pass by adding up the items of your list, calculating the tax, and taking a similar amount out of the bank to pay for the gifts. Once that money is gone, it’s gone. It’s certainly an exercise in discipline, but it can be done – and you’ll thank yourself for it later.
6. Alternatively, Use a Rewards Credit Card
Credit cards aren’t the devil, but like I said above, if you use them extravagantly without paying them off right away you could end up in a financial pickle at the start of the year. However, if you’ve set aside cash that you plan to use to pay off the holiday-gift credit balance as soon as you receive the bill, charging your way to Christmas isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ll rack up reward points that you can later redeem for something nice for yourself, and you can breathe easy when you’re not drowning in debt after all the decorations come down.
7. Skip the Paper Holiday Cards Altogether
I used to spend hours and hours addressing, stuffing, stamping, and licking envelopes to send my family and friends holiday greetings. I’ve put a halt to the practice altogether in the past few years, but I do still add a personalized card to each gift I give, and I personally thank those who sent me holiday greetings. That practice has dramatically reduced my costs and saved a lot of time. I don’t send out e-cards either – but that’s a great alternative for you if you want to send ‘green’ greetings – although I do push out holiday hellos and other fun content via social media to let everybody know I’m in the spirit.
8. Shop Smarter for Holiday Food – Maybe Even at a Different Supermarket
There are plenty of food sales and coupons available around the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you’re saving as much as you possibly can. Rather than heading straight to your go-to grocery store, first compare local competitors’ circulars to see who has those rock-bottom prices. You might be surprised to discover how much you can save on your already-expensive holiday meal while uncovering that you may have been overspending all along.
9. Plan a Cozier, Less Expensive New Year’s Eve Celebration
Everybody wants to ring in the New Year in style, but that doesn’t have to mean paying a ridiculous cover charge to get bent up on cheap liquor at a popular club. Instead, plan an intimate potluck party with a few of your closest friends, turn on the holiday tunes, and pop open a few bottles of bubbly to welcome the future with open arms. Another good idea: Think about making it a sleepover so nobody has to drive home; it’s never a good look when you’re spending January 1 in jail.
10. Treat Yourself to a Vacation
End-of-year holidays are a great time to snag awesome deals on travel. It might seem frivolous – you’re spending money instead of saving – but you’ve got to look at the big picture. If you normally take a vacation during the summer months, you’re paying a peak-season premium on everything from hotel stays to car rentals to fun activities. Book a trip when everybody is spending time with their families at home (and to a place that nobody wants to go during the winter months – Iceland is incredible this time of year), and you can preserve a sizable chunk of your vacation budget that can be put to better use.
Do you have other suggestions on how to save money in December? Let me know in the comments below.
The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.
To learn more about saving money and budgeting, visit Quid’s Corner – How to Create a Budget Worksheet in Excel