It is that time of year already!! The holiday season is upon us. Halloween has passed and Thanksgiving is fast approaching! Christmas decorations are up, and the merchants are preparing for the joyful sound of cha-ching. The holiday season always makes me think of the billions of dollars spent each year for gifts when love and appreciation freely expressed are the greatest gifts anyone could receive. I will get off my soap box and give you some tips to avoid overspending and breaking the bank this holiday season. As Christmas would not be Christmas without gifts!
Budget, Budget, and Budget
We have all heard the saying that the holidays are about being with family and friends, not gifts. Well, that all sounds good, but I want to be realistic because the precedence has been set. Most people expect gifts and sometimes, those expectations are not realistic and result in hurt feelings. For me personally, I stopped buying and expecting gifts years ago. Do not get me wrong as there is no greater feeling than watching your loved ones open their gifts and seeing that big smile on their faces. However, it is important to make a list of everyone who you want to buy for and budget accordingly including the non-gift items that come with the holidays as well (i.e., holiday dinners, parties, decorations, etc.) Create a budget to track your spending and to avoid the credit card trap. As they say, we do not plan to fail; we get in trouble when we fail to plan.
Choose your Holiday Activities Wisely
There are holiday activities that come around once a year that add up and could put a big hole in your budget. Instead of going to a restaurant for an expensive holiday dinner, consider planning a menu of your favorite foods and invite friends and family over for fun and laughter. Instead of spending the extra money at fancy department stores to get the perfect gift, consider shopping at budget-friendly stores like T.J. Maxx or Ross. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to shop at the Dollar Tree stores for my wrappings, gift bags, Christmas cards, and stocking stuffers. I Google free Thanksgiving and Christmas activities to attend. I drive to neighborhoods and walk around to enjoy the best light displays and festive decorations around town. Free holiday activities are everywhere for families to enjoy! Take advantage of them and come out of this holiday season with money in the bank.
Start Your Shopping Early
We all know that the serious shopping once began on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday or the following Monday known as Cyber Monday. Now, bargain prices start early in November with holiday discounts from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.
Bargains galore for everyone on your list fill these shopping days with fun and excitement. The early bird gets the worm but stay within your budget regardless of the good “deals.” The internet has made it so easy to look for sales. You no longer have to stand in long lines in darkness waiting for doors to open. I recommend that you take advantage of all the discount sites for great deals too (ex. Groupon, RetailMeNot, LivingSocial).
Check for Coupons
Before you buy anything online, search for coupons on sites such as Offers.com for coupon codes and enter them at checkout. Follow retailers on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to receive coupon codes via email as well. Also, the mobile app, Coupon Sherpa, allows you to find coupons at other nearby retailers while you shop. If you find a coupon you can use, pull up the barcode at point of sale to get a discount. Look for price matching advertisements to take advantage of the retail competition. You could be the winner in that game!
Shop with Cash
Cash is always king! Calculate your budget and withdraw your cash a little at a time to shop. This would prevent impulse purchases and spending money on self. It forces you to save or stretch the dollar as the old saying goes. It is known that shopping with a credit card results in more spending than using cash. Psychologically, it is more difficult to hand over hard earn dollars versus swiping plastic. Oh, wait a minute, forget the swipe, you can just tap and go.
Holiday shopping is not the tine to learn how to “tap” dance.
Do not Wait Until the Last Minute
Waiting to shop at the last minute will be your downward spiral. I made that mistake one year and could not find anything that I wanted to buy for anyone on my list. It was the worse feeling ever as I knew that I could not leave without buying something. Well, it became a budget buster! The alternative was more expensive gifts that broke my bank. I swore not to ever do that again.
Budgeting and saving can be challenging without the holidays. Throw it into the mix, and budgeting can become overwhelming. However, it is possible if you stay the course with the right mindset. Just keep telling yourself that the holidays are meant to spend time with family and friends. Those are my saving tips, and my final tip is to have a very joyful and peaceful holiday season.