Between cleaning the house for guests, cooking big meals and shopping for gifts, the holidays take a toll on our well-being and wallets. Whether it’s months before Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or right around the corner, planning and saving money all year minimizes some of the stress often associated with the season.
More than 50% of respondents to the 2013 U.S. Holiday Shopping Survey reported not starting holiday shopping until Thanksgiving or after. Follow these money-saving tips to avoid the mad dash, and ensure that your holiday season is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.
As a starting point, set your budget and stick to it. Think about all the ways you spend money during the holidays: meals, travel, gifts, etc. Allocate a realistic amount to each, so you don’t overspend. Additionally, have a spending limit for each person on your gift list.
Start at any time, or use this method all through the year. Each month, take $20 to $50, depending on your budget, and buy a gift card to a store you frequently haunt. The money comes out of your bank account in smaller increments throughout the year, then you end up with a lump sum to use for shopping or giving as gifts at the end of the year. Limit yourself to only using the gift cards. An added bonus: Many stores offer double or triple rewards points when buying gift cards, which can be used for gas discounts and more.
Pinterest makes it easier than ever to find ideas for heartfelt, homemade gifts. Sure you can buy something at the store, but a one-of-a-kind gift you worked to make will hold more meaning. Don’t wait until last minute to start crafting your gifts. Start buying supplies now!
Consider giving to the less fortunate. Instead of buying gifts for each person in your family, go in together to help supply a family in need’s wish list. Shop, wrap and deliver the presents together. You might find that the time spent with your family helping others means more than the gifts under the tree.
Besides saving cash on the gifts, find other ways to scale back your expenses during the season. Book any travel arrangements early, and research the best time to buy airline tickets. Instead of serving a fancy dinner, consider having appetizers, a brunch or asking your guests to each bring a dish to share.
When you’re not worried about money, you can enjoy the things that matter to you, whether they be family, friends, faith, food or fun.
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This article was written by Stephanie Snay of Angie’s List.