Halloween might officially be in the rearview mirror, but that means there’s an even bigger season on the horizon. No matter how you celebrate, the holidays are a time for gathering with family, reflecting on all the things we have to be grateful for, and shelling out money on a mountain of gifts. But, the last part doesn’t have to be that way. You can spend on holiday purchases without breaking the bank.
There are ways to limit the financial impact while still making the most of the holiday season. With some ingenuity, thoughtful planning, and maybe a part-time job, you too can give gifts and have a ho-ho-hopefully merry time!
We’ve compiled seven of our favorite tips to get you through the holiday season with your wallet intact. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be clinking glasses with your loved ones on New Year’s Eve in better financial shape than you thought.
1. Start Saving as Early As Possible
Did you know that Americans spent more than $789 billion during the 2020 holiday season? This massive leap from 2019’s spending is partly due to an influx of money people saved from not traveling or going out, combined with stimulus checks. This isn’t going to happen every year, so you need to be prepared.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s tough to purchase gifts for those around you if you don’t have any money. Start by saving for the holidays at the beginning of the year, and put away a few dollars or whatever your budget allows each week to set up your finances for November and beyond.
If you haven’t had a chance to save any money throughout the year, all is not lost. Retail businesses often hire seasonal employees, so picking up a part-time gig might give you a much-needed boost going into the holidays. You might even receive store discounts that can ease some of the strain of your long shopping list.
2. Make a Shopping List
You don’t go grocery shopping without a list, so why would you throw caution to the wind during the most expensive shopping season of the year? Before shopping for holiday gifts, make a list of everyone you have to buy gifts for and what they would like to receive. Then, stick to it!
Try not to go rogue and start purchasing things just because you can. It leaves you open to overspending and, ultimately, wasting money that could be better utilized for an emergency fund or as an investment.
Akin to a shopping list, don’t forget to set spending limits for each person and stick to them as well. It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of the giving season, but don’t spend all your money in an attempt to make the season more memorable.
3. Stick to Cash
When shopping for your loved ones and friends, make sure you only take the money you need to spend. Leave your credit card at home. Credit card purchases create temptation to spend now and worry about the bill later. If you overextend yourself and can’t afford to pay the entire bill when it’s due, you may set yourself up for high interest rates that make an already expensive season even more so.
If you plan to use a credit card, use it wisely. In some cases, your credit cards may have a reward or point program that allows you to use your saved points or other perks to cut down on costs. It may not pay for your entire gift list, but it could help you make a dent.
4. Holiday Shop Online
Online shopping has drastically changed the way we shop. Nearly every store has an online presence, making it easier than ever before to find the gifts you want and get them directly to their recipient.
The National Retail Federation reported that in 2020 online shopping and other non-store sales were up almost 24% during the 2020 holiday season, due in some part to the ongoing pandemic. Among that increase were several milestones, including Cyber Monday reaching $100 billion in sales for the first time.
Online shopping allows you to quickly compare prices on your favorite items to find the best price. Sometimes, you can benefit from free shipping if the online retailer offers it. Better yet, you can find even more savings by using one of several online shopping extensions, including Honey and Capital One Shopping. Both extensions scour the internet looking for coupon codes you can use to save a few extra bucks while checking out.
If you can’t or don’t want to shop online, there are still plenty of ways for you to get the gifts you want without the high price tag. Start shopping as early as possible and keep an eye out for deals and sales in your local flyers. Different products go on sale throughout the year, so you can typically find a gift or two on your list each time you go out.
Similarly, when Black Friday approaches, try to take advantage of the deals, but stick to your shopping list and budget! Black Friday isn’t just a great day to find a fantastic deal on a 4K TV. It’s also an incredible marketing tactic designed to draw you in and get you to spend tons of cash. In reality, stores have sales all year round, and you can typically find deals as good, if not better, at other times during the year.
5. Prioritize Your Gift-Giving List
As much as we want to buy every person we know a beautiful and heartfelt gift, the reality is that it isn’t feasible. To prevent yourself from going broke this holiday season, consider breaking everyone down into tiers. Family and close friends get gifts. Friends and close co-workers get snacks and a card, and others who happen to be in your network are prime candidates for a hearty holiday greeting.
By using gifting tiers, it’s easy to make shopping lists and budgets. It also helps you cut down on the overall number of gifts you need to buy because you’re focusing on those who matter most to you. Now, this isn’t to say you can’t do something for your co-workers and acquaintances. Take them out for a drink or make them some cookies, but don’t overthink it.
What’s even better than buying someone a generic gift at the store? Give them your time. We all have talents, so why not use them to our advantage. Are you a carpenter with a friend who can’t tell the difference between a nail and a screw? Then give them a free day of home improvement help! Can you write a beautiful story? Offer to help revamp a friend’s resume and cover letter as a gift. Not everything has to cost money, and sometimes it’s the thought that counts!
6. Eliminate Over-the-Top Gift Ideas
If there’s one area where people love to go overboard during the holiday season, it’s the decorations. Between trees, stars, twinkling lights, and holiday inflatables, it’s no wonder Americans spent close to $230 on non-holiday gift purchases in 2019, including decorations.
Instead of spending a ton of money on manufactured holiday cheer, try to find other ways to spread merriment this season. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, serve food at a local organization, or gather some people together to sing carols. Saving money doesn’t have to mean you lose the spirit of the season, but it does mean finding new ways to add some jolly to your holidays.
It also doesn’t hurt to rethink your annual sit-down neighborhood holiday dinner. Instead of dropping $400 on a holiday feast with all the trimmings, consider a less fancy but still fun holiday gathering with finger foods and other snacks. And don’t even try to make a fruitcake for every person within a 40-mile radius of your house.
7. Gift Yourself Last
Just like running a business, you always want to pay yourself last. In this case, it means only buying yourself something after everyone has been crossed off your list. Already run through your budget? Don’t splurge. The whole point is to get through the holidays without adding new debt or overspending.
There will always be opportunities for you to find small ways to treat yourself throughout the year, but stay the course and stick to the guidelines you already put in place.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Puns aside, it’s possible to survive the holidays with your budget intact. It takes patience and a little planning, but most people can manage to save some money in the meantime.
Looking for something to do in January once the New Year begins? Consider opening a Beanstox account! In a few minutes, you can set up and fund your account, setting the stage for you to grow your wealth over time. It’s seriously simple. Consider it a gift from you to yourself!