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Most of us love Christmas right? The music, the tree, the traditions etc. For many people, it’s their favorite time of year. The problem is that sometimes that holiday enthusiasm can find it’s way onto our credit cards.
Let’s face it, Christmas can get really expensive. I don’t know about you but we’ve had years where we were paying down Christmas credit card debt well into the new year.
Hands up if you like planning your summer camping trip while you’re still paying off Christmas debt?
It happens all the time though. For me, it’s usually that I feel especially generous around Christmas. I want to get the kids just one more toy, an extra-awesome gift for my wife, and bring an appetizer that everybody will love to the Christmas parties.
It is possible to enjoy the holidays and not spend January fighting a credit-hangover.
For our family, the main key to this has been planning. We starting planning for Christmas in the summer. Typically, by the time December rolls around my wife and I know what we’re getting the kids, and hopefully each other.
Below I’m going to share with you the Christmas money saving tips that my family has used to take the financial pressure off during the holidays.
1. Plan Your Holiday Spending
Sit down before Christmas and write out a list of who you plan to buy for and how much you want to spend. I like to add 25-50% to this to account for overspending.
Write out your planned costs for parties, lights, incidentals etc. and you can get a solid idea how much you’re actually going to spend at Christmas. You can start working off of this list for next year right after Christmas. Take your total and divide it by 12 to know how much you’ll need to save each month to make it happen.
2. Secret Santa
This is hands-down my favorite way to save money at Christmas. The fewer people that you have to buy for, the less money you’ll spend.
For those not familiar with Secret Santa, it’s basically a draw where everybody only buys for one other person. There are many variations to this but they all have one important similarity – you’re buying for one person rather than everybody.
A couple of years ago we started doing this with my wife’s family using SneakySanta. It’s simple, and free. You enter the names of the people that are going to participate and the site randomly draws who you are going to buy for. The beauty of this site is that each member can login and submit gift ideas for themselves that they actually want!
I don’t know about you, but when I have to buy for everybody, I spend way more money and buy gifts that aren’t as thoughtful. The great thing about Secret Santa is that you can take time to ensure that you get something the recipient will actually want. Since you’re only buying one gift, you can spend a little more on it and still save money.
3. Send Cards Instead Of Gifts
Sending gifts to distant family members? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Sending a card is a much more affordable way to let your loved ones know that you’re thinking about them without spending a fortune on gifts and shipping. Each year friends of ours send us a card with a photo of their family and a letter telling us about their year.
It’s thoughtful and we really appreciate it. And it’s very cheap.
4. Bake Things For Parties
One big expense that most of us have around Christmas is buying things for parties. We usually end up going to a lot of potluck style parties where we bring an appetizer. Pre-made appies can cost a small fortune at the grocery store, but you can save some cash by making your own.
You probably have most of what you need in your baking cupboard already. Try making cookies, muffins or another simple appetizer instead of buying this Christmas
Don’t like to bake? Cut up some veggies or fruit and put in on a plate. Fruit or vegetable platters can cost more than $20 for a few bucks worth of produce. It’s a crap deal if you ask me.
5. Buy Your Lights After Christmas
Christmas lights are often discounted 50% or more immediately after Christmas. I have to admit that I stepped up our light game with a few extra boxes this year (had to compete with those damn neighbors and their inflatable Santa), but most of my light buying will happen between Christmas and New Years. This will set us up for next year and save us some cash.
If you must buy lights prior to Christmas, the best deals can usually be found on Amazon and at Costco.
6. Remember That Kids Don’t Need That Much
I’m really, really bad for this one. As a parent, I want to give my kids lots of gifts. I want to get them every little thing that they’ve asked for throughout the year. The reality is, kids don’t need that much for Christmas. A couple of well thought out gifts are going to go a lot farther than buying dozens of toys and trinkets.
Kids get overwhelmed easily and there’s a lot of evidence out there to support the theory that kids are generally better off with fewer toys.
To make sure that your kids are getting something that they really will enjoy, why not keep a list? I have a Google Note in my phone with gift ideas for everybody in my family. When I hear them say they’d like something, it goes on the list. It’s really helpful for both Christmas and birthdays.
Of course they don’t get everything, but it makes it much easier to get a gift they will truly enjoy while not destroying our budget.
7. Buy Your Spouse An Experience
My wife has always preferred experiences to gifts (just one of the many ways we’re different).
There are fantastic deals on sites like Groupon for all kinds of experiences. Bungee jumping, a day at the spa, skiing, a weekend away etc. Whatever your spouse likes to do, consider getting them a memorable experience at a deep discount rather than an expensive gift.
It’s a bonus that this kind of shopping can be done entirely online, saving you time and the cost of fuel.
8. Buy Your Gifts Online
I’m doing most of my shopping on Amazon this year. If you’re a Prime member, it’s a no-brainer as your shipping will be free. Shopping on Amazon will usually net you as good or better a price than you would find at a local store.
In addition to saving time, buying your gifts on Amazon saves you the gas and maintenance on your car, the hassle of going to the mall and the money you might spend on extras while you’re there.
9. Take A Vacation
That’s right I said it. The best way to save money on Christmas is to just not participate. Take some of the money you would have spent and fly or drive somewhere for a holiday for your family.
If you plan your holiday far enough in advance it’s possible to get a good deal and leave ample time to inform people that you won’t be around. It’s your Christmas, you can do whatever you want with it. Sometimes the best gift you can give your family is some peace, quiet, and time together.
There you have it! My top strategies to save your family some hear-earned money this Holiday Season.
Question for you:
Do you have any advice for saving money at Christmas? Let us know in the comments!