How to Save Money During the Holiday Season
As a general rule, saving money all year long is a good idea. However, as the holidays approach, it can become an even better idea. The holiday season is supposed to be fun, a joyous time spent with family and friends, some of whom we don’t get to see enough throughout the year.
However, for some people, the “joy” is actually stressful, with greater demands placed upon limited resources of both time and money. During the holiday season, it is important for us to do our best, to manage our time and give to those around us.
The whole point of the holidays is to enjoy them, right? But what about when money is a little tight – can we still enjoy the holiday spirit when the grinch has us by the purse strings? Can we actually save money during the holiday season? Let’s take a closer look.
Rule Number One
The first rule to saving money during the holiday season may be the most obvious one, and it is to have a spending limit. It makes sense that if we know our limit heading in, we have a much better chance of not exceeding it.
Without a clearly defined spending limit, how can we possibly know whether we’re spending too much and potentially getting ourselves into trouble?
Therefore, avoid the instinctive response of creating a list of people who you wish to gift and instead start with a number – the maximum amount you can afford to spend on gifts, cards, food, drinks, party favors and decorations before heading out to any stores.
Once you have a pre-set spending limit in mind, make the firm decision to resolutely stick to it!
Make Your List and Check it Twice
Now comes the step of creating a list that includes everybody who you want on it. Remember, your number is firm, so the process of allocating how much you can spend on each individual person can prove challenging.
You may start on the high end for some of these people, but you must end on the realistic end for everyone. If your numbers add up to too much, that’s when checking the list twice (and and twice more) gets you back in line.
You may have to make some unpleasant decisions when it comes to specific amounts and even people who you may cut off your list. That’s ok. You have to do what you have to do – it’s your personal finances, and only you know your situation best.
Recognize that you will be able to give to those who you really want to, and when you get more creative about giving meaningful gifts (as opposed to expensive ones), the gift-giving process becomes easier and can still remain heartfelt.
Part of doing well around the holiday season is giving yourself plenty of time for your shopping, bargain-hunting and meaningful gift creation. Avoid the need for last-minute purchases, as these can prove overly expensive.
Even with that in mind, it is important to rely on cash as much as possible, given that our overall objective is to remain within the bounds of our pre-set spending limit.
Withdrawing a majority amount in cash ahead of time serves as a preventative against relying on credit cards needlessly or impulsively and potentially running over the spending limit.
When using a card does makes sense (for cash back or promotions) make certain that you use your lowest interest-rate card while remaining within your pre-set spending limit and keep a written record of all purchases as well as a written plan for when you will be paying the charges back in full.
Meaningful gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money, yet they can be among the most treasured and remembered. While it’s true that little kids may prefer shiny new toys (although they also love candy), as people get older and have had their share of material wants met, thoughtful gestures and meaningful gifts can really hit the mark.
Think about what the person really enjoys, what matters to them, and create a personalized gift around that. Simple handwritten creations combined with thoughtfully selected trinkets from thrift stores and garage sales can mean the world to an older person when you’ve shown them that you know who they are on the inside.
A photo from earlier in the year, presented in a nice, simple frame. Freshly baked cookies, homemade jelly presented in a mason jar, “gift certificates” for a dog walk or babysitting night. Or how about a lunch outing for an elderly person? These can all really hit home in a good way, without breaking your pre-set spending limit.
Weddings and Vacations
With so much of the focus on the holidays during the time before Thanksgiving and the New Year, fewer people tend to shop for wedding dresses in November and December.
This is an interesting situation to make note of if you are planning on getting married within the year, as bridal apparel shops often offer deals on wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses.
Even better, if you’re actually planning on getting married in December, many churches are already decorated with flowers for the holidays and this makes it a little easier to save on floral decorations.
This approach works better for somewhat smaller weddings, as fewer caterers, DJs and bands are available than usual since their schedules are more crowded with holiday bookings.
Finally, many hotels, resorts and even cruise ships struggle for business around the holiday season, and many bargains abound. Search online for deals before contacting the establishment or cruise line directly and then ask for central reservations.
With your available online price in mind, act shocked when the reservationist quotes you something higher. Explain that you have a lower offer and are interested in buying directly through them if they can beat it.
About The Author: Steven Brachman
Steven Brachman is the lead content provider for UnitedSettlement.com. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Economics, Steven spent several years as a registered representative in the securities industry before moving on to equity research and trading. He is also an experienced test-prep professional and admissions consultant to aspiring graduate business school students. In his spare time, Steven enjoys writing, reading, travel, music and fantasy sports.
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