If you’re not careful, the holidays can quickly put a dent in your bank accounts. Gifts, gatherings, events and other holiday to-dos can significantly impact your wallet if you let them. In fact, the National Retail Federation reports Americans spending more than $700 billion on gifts during the holiday season. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, with a little ingenuity, you can end up saving quite a bit of money during the holidays.
Here are a few ways to help you celebrate the holidays on a budget.
MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS AND DÉCOR
It’s the thought, and the effort, that count. Making your own gifts is a great way to save money while showing someone you really care about them. Plus, getting crafty is a fantastic stress reliever, while allowing you to exercise some creativity. Avoid the mall and battling the crowds, find a special DIY project, and get to work.
If you like to decorate your apartment or home with holiday decorations, DIY is a great way to save money as well. Use Pinterest to gather inspiration, and make your own wreaths, centerpieces, and other decor to show off your holiday spirit.
CUT DOWN YOUR OWN TREE
If you live somewhere with an abundance of pine trees, there’s a chance the local forest service could use your help with removal. Look up tree cutting areas in your community, and if you’re lucky, for a small fee of $5 or $10 you’ll get the opportunity to cut down your own tree. Not only is venturing out in the woods for tree cutting a memorable and rewarding tradition, it’s also low budget. And, while real pine trees may not be as full as the specialty grown trees, they have a lot of character and memories tied to them.
HOST VIRTUAL DINNERS
Rather than booking flights to gather your whole family for a weekend, consider having a virtual dinner. By now we’ve all become experts in the nuances of video chat, and it’s a great option to see friends or family without the pricey plane ticket or travel expenses. Plus, with the ongoing pandemic, it may be a safer option as well.
RETHINK GIFT GIVING
Talk with your family and friends before the holidays and suggest alternatives to buying a gift for everyone on your list, such as drawing names, a Secret Santa, or setting dollar limits on gifts. Perhaps your family or friends would rather give to charity instead of buying things no one really needs, which can be especially impactful during the pandemic.
You can also ask for inexpensive gift ideas, or links to specific items they want. This helps limit the pressure on you to find the perfect gift, and also makes the giving more affordable.
Some families and friends even opt for an experience rather than gifts. Plan a fun weekend getaway or evening outing, especially one where everyone can pitch in. Or, host a family movie or game night where everyone brings a snack or drink to share. Sometimes memories together are better than random gifts.
MAKE A SHOPPING LIST AND STICK TO IT
If you do decide to venture out for holiday shopping, consider making a list before you go. This will help you from picking up a bunch of gifts you haven’t really thought through, spending more money than you intended.
Create a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for, and outline specific items you will purchase for each person. Do some research ahead of time to find the store (or website) with the best pricing, including any sales, coupons, or discount codes they may offer. When in the store, only purchase the item(s) on your list.
DEFINE A BUDGET
In addition to creating and sticking to a shopping list, do the same with a budget. Calculate how much you can spend on gifts and celebrations this year, and plan accordingly.
GET A HEAD START
If you plan ahead and get your shopping done early, you’re less likely to end up in a scramble buying a bunch of extra gifts and things you don’t need at the last minute. Start early with your planning and purchasing, and it will save you both money and headache.