Hello best life seekers!
Did you spend too much on Black Friday? Are you worried about over-spending this holiday season? On average, Americans spend around $967 for items such as decorations, gifts and festive foodstuffs during the holiday season, not including travel expenses. When it comes to the gifting season we can all get carried away. Here are 5 tips, tricks and strategies for not going broke or busting your budget this Christmas.
#1 – Have a Budget
This may sound obvious but having a budget for your seasonal shopping is incredibly helpful. Between meals, holiday parties, gifting and travel, your money can whirl down the sink in a flash so keep in mind not just what you want to spend on presents but also on food, decorations, going out, etc. Mark down what you want to spend in each area and stick to it.
#2 – Sales, Coupons, Deals, Discounts
Never buy anything at full price. Black Friday has some incredibly great deals to save you money (and tempt you to buy more than you need) but it’s not the only time to save money. There is Cyber Monday and other times and ways to save. Being strategic about when and where you buy can net you serious discounts that mean more money left in your pocket. Stores offer coupons both for in-store and online shopping that can reward you with more purchasing power. Sometimes the better sales are actually online so do your research before ringing up charges.
Speaking of credit card charges, some cards will offer extra points at certain stores or for using certain websites during the holidays. That might be a lucrative way to bulk up on reward points as a side bonus.
#3 – Narrow Your Giving Circle
You may feel like you need to buy gifts for everyone – from your kids to your neighbor’s dog to your cousin’s niece’s boyfriend or all your colleagues at work. If this is you, triage before you’re left destitute.
You do not need to buy presents for anyone. Ever. It’s your money and finances. If you don’t feel like giving, don’t cave to the societal pressure. If you face adding on debt, especially when you have not paid off debts from last year’s Christmas, triage may be very necessary.
What do I mean by triage? Make a list of people you want or feel like you need to gift. Immediately cross off adults and their families who do not give you gifts or didn’t give you gifts last year. You are in no way obligated to gift these people.
Cross off too your work colleagues. When it comes to the office, no one should be expecting presents from anyone else. If you have to, suggest the office do a gift exchange with a small monetary limit via a name drawing or via Dirty Santa. Work is where you make money, not spend it frivolously or add to your debt pile.
Your list should be smaller now. Trim down to immediate family, with a best friend thrown in if that’s something you do. Maybe your family can agree that adult children will no longer receive presents and you will only give to nieces or nephews, young children or grandchildren, your spouse or fiancé. Another good rule of thumb is to only give to those you actually see on Christmas, i.e. the people staying with you for Christmas or that host you. It’s only good manners to bring the host a gift but you’re okay to buy a family/house gift rather than providing gifts for everyone there, which can get expensive fast.
Again, nothing in the Christian or pagan tradition says you must buy gifts. I’d never say don’t buy your children or spouse presents. You’d probably get into trouble with the spouse if you didn’t have something unless you have previously made agreements about gifts or non-gifting. Talk candidly with your significant other about gifting limits and expectations for the sake of financial transparency and solvency.
Bottom line: It’s your money and financial house. Don’t feel pressured by our overly materialistic culture and non-stop ads to give more than you want and especially not more than you have. There are great and inexpensive ways to show your thoughtfulness, generosity, and caring other than buying 4k televisions and expensive iPads for everyone.
#4 – Gifting on the Cheap
So you’ve cut down on your giving circle but still have a lot of people or you can’t cut down in the first place. Either way, you don’t want to break the bank and add another cent to your debt load. Here’s how to gift on the cheap once you’re out of sales and discount land.
Food. For distant relatives and office mates, just gift food. Bake up some cookies and put them into seasonal baggies to gift. Don’t cook? Buy candy and divvy it up the same way. You don’t have to give non-consumable, expensive gifts or waste your money on frivolous, cheap buys that people don’t want, need or use. Food is easy and cheap. Save the big dollar items for those closest to you.
Make it. If you’re good at a craft and it’s less expensive, make your presents. I know knitters who do this all the time. Just remember that no one wants a crappily made item and no one wants doilies or knitted wash cloths even if they smile and say how much they like them.
Re-gifting. I’m a minimalist so many gifts get re-gifted, particularly the generic items like candles, bath and body kits or tchotchkes. Re-gifting is great for office parties, extended family members you don’t know well, or teachers and bosses since generic items are one size fits all. Then next year they can re-gift the same items and continue the cycle of free gifting.
#5 – Needs, Not Wants
Depending on your financial needs or values, you may feel like cutting back on spending. It’s a good reality check to focus on needs over wants to reset priorities and save your bank account. For instance, your kid may want an iPhone for Christmas but really need a winter coat and shoes. Or you may want your significant other to buy you a new big screen TV but need new wheels on the car to replace the bald ones. Buy or request needed things. If you focus on needs over wants, you’ll get more mileage on your money.
We all want to appear generous and win love and approval by showering others with gifts. Maybe it feels really good to buy gifts for those you love and watch them open their presents. That’s all fine and good but sometimes we can get carried away and wake up later to a credit card bill or account balance that causes heartburn or shock.
The holidays are about celebration and sharing love and appreciation. It’s not about who has the largest haul of goodies or how much you spend. Don’t fall for the commerical hype. Remember, the average is around $967 spent in total on Christmas. So despite what those non-stop TV ads want you to believe, few people are actually throwing luxury items like iPhones, tablets, or TVs into their shopping carts. Relax. Breathe. Focus on enjoying your friends, family and vacation. Your bank account will thank you.
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