It feels like it all came at once, doesn’t it? You barely get a day or two to breathe on Halloween and you’re hit with a deluge of holidays and holiday expenses. Over the next few months, we are facing an endless onslaught of gift giving, parties, food and travel. It’s a fun time of year if you can afford it. But, can you afford it?
For many people, January and February become months of dread. That’s when holiday bills start coming due, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You really can take a debt-free vacation. Just follow these seven tips.
Narrow down your gift list
Do you need to buy gifts for your second cousins or their children? Let’s be honest, they don’t even want to buy you a gift. Relieve your stress and theirs and agree to stop giving gifts.
You could also suggest a Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange. These allow you to give gifts to only one person in the group or keep gifts limited to fun items rather than expensive gifts.
Create a list and buy duplicates
What should you buy for your 30 nieces and nephews or 15 cousins? What about your uncles? If you need to buy gifts for multiple people in the same demographic, divide your Christmas shopping list accordingly. Then, find deals that fit and buy multiples of the same item, for example:
- Teen Nieces – Makeup Kit
- Uncle – A bottle of brandy
- Colleague – Christmas Candle
- Fraternity Brothers – Engraved Pocket Knife
- Nephews – Fishing Poles and Tackle Boxes
Present Homemade Gifts
People appreciate the thought behind homemade gifts. Consumables and functional gifts are especially appreciated during that time of year when people are accumulating a lot of “stuff.” So, bake some cookies, make jars of hand cream, crochet hats, or do whatever you do best.
Visit Thrift Stores for Vintage Decor
You don’t have to spend your budget buying Christmas decorations at department and big box stores. Instead, take a look at your local thrift store. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can get and how low the prices are.
Plus, the quality is often surprising. You may find that you can actually buy vintage Christmas items for less than you would spend on mass-produced plastic.
Are you entertaining this year? Don’t forget to visit the kitchenware section. Look for beautiful mismatched plates and vintage servingware. You can also stock up on vintage bakeware and glasses to finish things off.
Make a budget and stick to it
It’s hard to stay within your budget when you don’t know what your budget is. Set a certain limit on how much money you are going to spend in total. Divide it into categories like gifts, travel, food and entertainment.
Then, stick to it. You may have to say no to some things, but most people will understand. Even better, they may appreciate you applying the brakes first because it allows them to do the same. You’re not the only one who needs to cut back.
Use Rewards and Receipt Apps
This is the perfect time of year to take advantage of apps and programs that offer discounts and rewards. Use these when you shop to earn points for gift cards, cash rebates and other promotions. Start with a higher average credit card, but only if you pay it off promptly. Then, check out these options:
- Bring in
- receipt hog
If you haven’t signed up for a loyalty program at your local coffee shop, grocery store or gas station, do that too. Then continue it next year. You may earn enough to cover your holiday expenses next year.
Spread the word with experience gifts
What if you could postpone some of your vacation costs for a few months? You can do this if you give the gift of experience! Have a friend who likes baseball? Make a deal to take him to a double-header this summer. Then, buy tickets in March.
Know what the people you love are interested in. That could be stamp collecting, sailing, transgender dating, camping, horror movies, or many other things. Then, plan an experience around that for spring or summer. It’s a gift of quality time and thoughtful too!
accept the gift of giving back
In the spirit of the season, consider redirecting some of your holiday spending to charitable causes. Instead of material gifts, you can donate to charity in someone’s name. Many organizations offer holiday-themed donation certificates, which can be a meaningful gift.
This approach not only helps those in need but also teaches children and reminds adults about the true spirit of the holiday season. Plus, it’s a gift that keeps on giving even after the holidays have passed.
Post-Holiday Sales Plan
Another smart way to spend on the holidays is to take advantage of post-holiday sales. Many items, especially holiday-themed products, are significantly discounted after the season is over. Plan to buy decorations, wrapping paper and even some non-perishable gifts for next year in the first week of January. This strategy requires a little storage space and forward thinking, but the savings can be substantial.
keep your wallet safe
Don’t work hard to maintain a budget and don’t lose your money to fraudsters. Be aware of the risks of scams and identity theft when shopping. Take steps like avoiding public Wi-Fi, paying with cash and adding two-factor authentication wherever possible when shopping online.
The holidays are a time for joy, reflection and bonding, not stress and financial strain. By implementing these thoughtful strategies, from trimming down your gift list to planning for post-holiday sales, you can enjoy the holiday season without the worry of a rising credit card bill.
Remember, the best gifts often come without a price: your time, your love, and your presence. So, this holiday season, give yourself the gift of peace of mind by spending wisely, donating generously, and taking care of your financial well-being.