It’s the first week of December and the holiday and party season are upon us. It can be a wonderful time of year filled with ample opportunities to socialize and have fun; however, if you’re not careful, the holidays can also be expensive and stressful. I find it easy to get swept up in the sparkly lights, the lively decorations in shopping malls and the soothing, hopeful sounds of Christmas music. These sights and sounds combined with seemingly incredible deals on every type of gift imaginable have often led me financially astray. I have spent many a January filled with regret and worry about my credit card balance. This year I honed in on the best tips and suggestions to help get the most out of the ‘season of giving’ while remaining kind to myself and my wallet.
Before you go through the list below, look toward the month ahead and take the time to consider what the holidays mean to you. For many December equals family get-togethers, work parties and gift exchanges. Some people travel or indulge in well-deserved rest and down time. Whatever it is you are most looking forward to, remember to be realistic and prioritize yourself and your financial health as well.
- If gift purchases are in your immediate future determine first who you will buy for. Ask yourself if it is time to cull and reduce the number of gifts you plan to purchase? Have a chat with your friends and family and suggest drawing names to reduce costs, time and effort. Then make a list and set a budget for each gift. Do your best to stick to that budget and be mindful of how retailers will do their best to get you to spend more money.
- Take advantage of sales. Do your research and comparison shop.
- Start shopping as early as possible, early shopping helps you avoid panicked shopping when it is so easy to overspend. Remember that you don’t need to be showy with your gifts. If you have a party, or several, to attend buy your hostess gifts early so you’re not scrambling and end up purchasing something overpriced.
- Avoid buying everything on credit and always track your spending. $10 and $20 purchases add up quickly without you realizing it.
- Use up your points. This is the perfect time to redeem any loyalty or credit card points you’ve accumulated.
- If you don’t have lots of wiggle room in your budget for gifts be creative! I am amazed at the sheer number of great homemade or DIY yourself gift ideas that are floating around online. My personal favorites are gifting someone with a jar of layered beans and a recipe card to make lentil soup, Hot Chocolate in a Mug or Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche. You can also search online for more creative gift ideas.
- Create your own traditions. Consider donating to a charity on someone’s behalf. For extended family gatherings suggest buying for only the children in the family, or drawing names and playing gift exchange games. There are many fun and inexpensive games. My favorite is when every participant brings a wrapped gift (set a maximum purchase price) and everyone draws a number from a hat. The person who draws the #1 gets to pick from the gift pile first. The person who draws # 2 picks second, and can either pick from the gift pile, or, take the gift that # 1 chose, # 3 goes third, and so on. This game can become competitive, and loud, so make SURE to set the rules out before you play.
- If possible, shift any non-essential and gift spending to after December 25th, when Boxing Day and post Christmas sales offer some of the best deals of the year.
- If there is too much for you to handle socially, or financially, it’s ok to ask for help, and it’s also ok to say no. Try not to do anything that doesn’t bring you joy. The exception of course is that you must always obey the law such as wearing a seatbelt and not going over the speed limit.
- If you have one, stick to your exercise routine, and remember to eat as healthy as possible. Why? A healthy mind goes hand in hand with a healthy body. It is easy to over indulge this time of year when there is an abundance of sugary and fatty foods. You’ll thank yourself on New Year’s Eve if you’ve managed to maintain all of your healthy habits.
Money Saving suggestions for Travellers
- If you are travelling during the holidays put your water heater on vacation mode and turn your thermostat down.
- In the time leading up to your trip, challenge yourself to eat only what is already in your pantry or fridge. Adjust your grocery list so you’re not buying food that will go to waste in your absence.
- If you are going to stay with family ask in advance what you can and or should bring. This too will help you avoid last minute, panicked shopping.
To consider for next year:
- Open a holiday savings account and contribute throughout the year. When December arrives, you’ll have the money you’ve saved for any holiday related expenses.
- Shop all year round, you don’t have to wait until November or December to shop for gifts. Some of the best sales happen right after Christmas and into the New Year.
Remember that you are in control, you decide how you want to spend your holidays, how much you want to spend, and who and what you spend your money on. Although I know a few people who might disagree with me, keep in mind that gifts are not love. There are no substitutes for building and maintaining healthy relationships and spending quality time with our loved ones. Memories sustain us much longer than the newest gadget or toy.
Let us know what you do to save money and take care of yourself during the holiday season! We’d love to hear from you.