So now Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to relax, kick back and start planning for the holidays. Chances are, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us, and could use to save a little money. Conserving your cash during the gift-giving season isn’t easy, but there are some ways to be smart about your spending.
Making a gift list, and keeping it (!) is one way to start taking control of your holiday budget. Preparing in advance gives you the opportunity to look out for sales and find comparable items on your list. Setting up a gift exchange at work is one way to consolidate spending, where you’re only buying one gift instead of 20. Simply put the names of your coworkers on a piece of paper, put them in a hat and walk around your floor to have people draw at random. Set an allowance to be spent on the gift, usually at around $20, so everyone is giving and receiving the same quality of gifts. This can also be used as an option for family members as well, even if they are out of state. Have one person in charge of the process and do it all over the phone. As far as parents go, contact your siblings and have everyone pitch in on a gift card. It takes the guesswork out of having to select a gift and it won’t cost you anything to ship if you have to mail the gift. They sure will appreciate it over the usual hodgepodge of stuff they receive and can get something that they might actually need.
Cooking a meal can be a great money saving tactic when you just can’t swing the $2500 purse your girl has been eyeing. Gifts that require a little elbow grease can go a long way, even if you don’t possess the necessary skills to do it up right. Keep it simple with some baked chicken and a salad, even boiling up some noodles and heating up a jar of sauce can score you some major points. Remember what she always says—it’s the thought that counts.
High oil prices have really changed the way airlines do business. New restrictions implementing fees for extra luggage and even carry-ons can really add up quick. Be smart about what you pack and keep the size and weight of the luggage in mind to help avoid this added expense. While away, you should be less tempted to make impulse purchases to take back with you, since the space in your suitcase should be seen as a commodity. Just remember when you’re considering that new, shiny set of golf clubs—they charge per pound.
Public transportation is another way to cut down your spending during your holiday travels. When flying in, shuttle busses, commuter trains and busses can be used in lieu of taxis, which tend to have a pricey fee associated with picking you up from the airport. Another tip is to get a ride from a friend, or even take a cab to the airport on your way out of town to avoid the cost of keeping your car in the airport garage for the duration of the trip. You could also consider avoiding the airport all together and take a much more relaxing trip on a train. Skip the lines, security checks and turbulence, and keep your cell reception.
While eating is a necessity, eating out at a restaurant every night isn’t. You can save a bit of money and gain some family bonding if you make it a group effort and cook together. Recall some meals that your mother used to make, use her recipes and attempt to cook them for her instead. Maybe then she’ll understand why you used to share half of your meal Sparky when you were younger—she can see that her mashed potatoes really did taste like soap.
’Tis the Season
Debt and financial stress are inherently associated with the holidays, considering the gift-giving nature of the season. Planning ahead, making a budget and sticking to it are crucial to being a smart consumer, especially during this time of year where it is easy to fall into a spending spree in a last minute attempt to correct your bad planning. Remember that spending time, not money, and showing appreciation, not financial excess is what the holiday season is really all about.