This post is part of the series Budget Guide
Other posts in this series:
Here in the United States, we are now in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and with December only a few days away, many of us have turned our minds to purchasing presents. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and some stores offering deals all week long, a lot of people are eagerly on the hunt for the best sales.
There are plenty of holiday parties with family, friends, or even at the office to attend soon, and many may include secret santa or white elephant style gift exchanges. Charities and various non-profits are also upping their advertising in hopes of getting more donations. There are also adopt-a-child and adopt-a-family style programs to help the less fortunate in our local communities.
With the social expectation of lavish gift giving during this time of year, how does the budget conscience person stay within budget?
I recently read an article on CNBC that shared approximately half of Americans surveyed went into debt to finance their 2016 holiday shopping — and many are still paying it off!Don't go into debt this holiday season! Here are 10 tips to stay within budget. Click To Tweet
While we have always tried to keep to a reasonable budget during the holidays, this year we are having to tighten our financial belts even more. We have transitioned to a single income household and due to a few unforeseeable emergency expenses over the last few months, it is has been a bit of a struggle to maintain our “normal”. We had to dip into our savings more than I would have liked and have not been able to replenish it (yet).
So this year, we are on a very tight Christmas budget. Here are 10 tips we will be following on staying within budget this holiday season.
1. Set your budget in stone.
Decide on how much you can afford this holiday season. Be sure to think about all aspects of the holidays: gifts, dinners out, parties, decorations, food ingredients, charitable giving, etc. Be realistic but firm in your budget decision. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stay within your budget no matter what amazing “deals” you might see advertised or who asks for donations.
2. Make a list and check it twice.
All joking aside, seriously sit down and make a list of everyone that you would like to give a gift to and/or situation that may require a gift. Set a price limit for each gift and evaluate the total estimated cost. Then prune your list down as far as you can possibly go — both the recipients and the cost per gift.
3. Give a thoughtful card rather than a gift.
In some situations, a nice seasonal card with a personalized note could replace a more expensive gift. If you are like me, then you probably have blank holiday cards left over from previous years so you may not have to buy any new ones! It just costs you a little bit of time to write the note and maybe the cost of postage (if mailing).
4. Make a list and shop carefully.
This is the time of year that retailers and shops use many (often successful) tactics to convince you to overspend. Do not fall for their marketing gimmicks or get sucked into buying more than you need because of “good deals”.
Know what you are going to buy before you walk in the store and stick to that list.
5. Shop dollar stores.
You might just be surprised by all of the things now available at dollar stores. This should be the go-to-stop for the frugal shopper. For example, why spend all of that money on expensive gift baskets when you can put together your own, customized gift basket using items from dollar stores?
You might like: Holiday Gift Guide: $5 Go-To Gift Ideas
6. Shop secondhand.
Not everything has to be bought brand new, in the original packaging and with price tags still attached. There are many thrift and secondhand stores that sell interesting or unique items of good quality at affordable prices.
There are times for birthdays and holidays when we might receive a nice gift that we already have or cannot use for some reason. The thought behind the present is extremely meaningful so why not pass these unused items on to bless others? Just be sure you do not accidentally re-gift an item back to the original gift-giver — that might lead to an awkward conversation!
8. Shop in your home.
While similar to the last tip, this one is even more personal. Who among us is not trying to simplify our lives and declutter our homes? I know we are!
During the purging process, we sometimes find items that we really love or have used previously but no longer need or have a place for. Instead of donating these items to strangers, why not give them as a gift to someone you know (or hope) will appreciate it? To make the gift extra special, write a nice note about what the item means to you and why you are giving it to that person.
9. Re-use gift bags and wrappings.
I started collecting birthday, special occasion, and holiday themed bags and gift wrappings a few years ago when my husband and I married. We even save tissue paper if it is in good condition. (I fold tissue paper neatly for storage.) This has been a lifesaver when it comes to saving a little money on the “wrappings”.
If you don’t have any bags to re-use, go for a fun vintage feel by wrapping your gifts with old newspaper or brown paper from grocery bags.
10. Be honest with family and friends.
If you are going to be changing your giving habits noticeably, be sure to let your family and friends know ahead of time that this year you do not have much to spend and will be cutting back to stay on budget. You do not need to go into detail, but be honest and genuine. Most people will be more than understanding.
Bonus Tip: Homemade gifts
Inspired by the comment below from our friend, Trisha, if you are crafty in any way maybe you had make a few gifts yourself! Handmade gifts are treasures to keep for years to come! Depending upon how crafty you are, you may already have plenty of things lying around your house that you can use to make a homemade gift.
The perfect gift can be anything from a card to an ornament to a home decor piece or framed drawing/painting or going to a local print shop and printing photos, canvas, mousepads, etc. You could put the ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa or cookie recipe in a mason jar and write cooking directions on a little label. If you are not sure what to do, browsing Pinterest is a good place to get ideas!
It is our intention that, by following these ten tips ourselves, we will be able to stay within our meager holiday budget without having to sacrifice the joy that comes with gift-giving. It will take careful planning and a commitment to our budget, but if we can do it, so can you!