Like the old song says, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s also the most stressful, especially where money is involved. With that in mind, here are some tips for trimming your holiday spending.
1. Personalize your cards and wrapping
Most people throw away their Christmas cards once the festivities are over, which is just like throwing money in the bin.
This year, instead of spending your hard-earned cash on shop-bought cards that will only end up in the recycling bin, why not send your family and friends Christmas greetings they will want to keep?
Use a favorite photo to create a personalized photo card
If you have kids, give them some paper and get them to draw or paint pictures that you can use to create special cards
Record a video message on your smartphone or iPad and email it to your family and friends
Write a letter to your loved ones instead of sending a card. This is a great way to tell them how much they mean to you, or thank them for something special they might have done for you this year.
Rethink your wrapping by buying brown paper and string, or just use plain colored paper to wrap your presents. Then you'll avoid pricey Christmas wrapping and can use the excess during the year to wrap other gifts. Gift Giving Made Easy
2. Shop like you're Santa
Santa is always well-prepared and does his shopping on time, so why don't you? If you are going to shop in-store, consider these rules-of-thumb to reduce Christmas shopping stress and limit the temptation to over spend:
Set a time limit on your shopping - Get in, get it done and get out so you aren't tempted to spend more than you want to.
Shop at odd hours - Take advantage of extended trading hours and go when it's less crowded so you can choose carefully without having to jostle for space. Have you heard of Black Friday?
Buy less expensive stuff first - If you buy larger and more costly items first you can lose perspective on what is a good price, so set your budget, buy small first, and then tackle the big stuff so you stick to your gift budget.
Pre-pay - If you buy online, check if there's an option to pick up in-store. You'll save on freight, skip any lines, and there will be less temptation to buy more.
Limit your shopping locations - Only go to shops that you need to visit so you don't get distracted and impulse buy.
3. Be a scrooge online
If you're Christmas shopping online, look for ways to save every cent you can. Before you start, do a web search for discount or coupon codes that you can use at the checkout.
Look in the sales sections of retailers' websites to see what's on offer.
If you know what items you are looking for, search for them online instead of just going to one retailer's website. You might find it much cheaper somewhere else.
Search online auction websites where you can 'bid' for items, including supplies you need for Christmas Day. Make sure you include any shipping costs when you are comparing prices. The cost of some items can blow out once you add shipping, meaning it might be better to simply go to a store to get the item. Or look for items or shopping days that have free shipping.
Things are often much cheaper online than in a store.
4. Grab your gift cards
People love gift cards and vouchers, but too many of us let the funds expire before we use them. Check the expiration date on any gift cards you still have credit on, and consider putting this money towards your Christmas costs. Every dollar of gift card credit you use means you're spending one less dollar of your own money. Every little bit helps!
Gift cards can also make good presents for people who are hard to buy for, or if you just don't know what to get them.
5. Get social with Christmas shopping
If you follow your favorite brands and retailers on social media, you may be able to get exclusive discounts through these social channels. Their newsletters may also alert you to sales and deals.
There are also discounts or deal apps that you can use to find bargains that you can use as Christmas gifts.
6. Master the art of Christmas gift hacking
There's a lot of pressure to spend up big on gifts at this time of year, but pricey presents aren't necessarily the way to go. Here are some ways you can show you care, while keeping a lid on your spending:
Agree on a spending limit - Suggest to your loved ones that you set a limit on how much you will spend on gifts for each other to keep your budgets under control
Kids only - Talk to the other adults in your extended family about only buying presents for the kids this year, rather than for the adults
DIY vouchers - We often remember the things people do for us rather than the presents they give us. Consider giving redeemable vouchers for tasks like babysitting, massages, picnics, homemade dinners or even housework.
Savvy sales - Take advantage of sales throughout the year to get some bargains and store them away for Christmas. But, even in December there are bargains to be had. You can also check out any clearance outlets near you, or sign up to their newsletters so that you'll be in the know when they have a sale.
Compare offers - Some stores match or beat competitors' deals, so compare their offers and take all the details with you when you go into the store. Don't be afraid to ask for a discount - you might just get a Christmas miracle!
Secondhand bargains - Op shops, antique stores and secondhand bookshops can be a treasure trove for the thrifty Christmas shopper. If you're prepared to spend the time looking through their stock, you can often find good quality items at a fraction of the price you'd pay at big name stores.
7. Give to those less fortunate
Spread the Christmas cheer by giving to those who are doing it tough. Consider donating to a charity on someone else's behalf and give this to them as a gift. As well as money, many charities also accept household items, clothes and groceries at Christmas, or you could volunteer your time to help them out.
8. Lighten your load on Christmas Day
Come Christmastime, the food costs really add up. Not only are you spending more money for nicer ingredients and more exotic foods but you’re also feeding way more mouths than usual. At the same time, you can’t really ask relatives to chip in for the dinner you’re serving them.
An easier way to spread the costs around is to make the dinner a potluck. Just tell everyone coming over for dinner that they are expected to bring a dish. Nobody will bat an eye. However, it does take a little bit of coordination. Otherwise you end up with five tuna casseroles and no desert.
Buy only what you need - It can be easy to overestimate how much food you'll need at Christmas, only to end up throwing some away or eating leftovers for days.
Switch supermarkets - Make a list of the groceries you need for Christmas, and then take advantage of the competition between supermarkets by checking out the advertised specials and stocking up. Don't buy everything at the same shop if you can get it cheaper elsewhere. You might even get better deals at your local butcher.
9. Clip Those Coupons!
Even though coupons are commonplace on the internet — just check your inbox — coupons in the newspaper are equally as valuable.
Coupons in the paper are especially handy for something no Christmas would be complete without: food. Your local grocery store likely has tons of ads for discounted items, so grab your scissors and pay attention! Careful planning on your part will help stretch your food budget.
10. Play games
Nothing brings a family together like trying to remember the rules to Monopoly.
This is a great way to occupy hours and hours of family time at little to no cost beyond the price of the game itself.
You can also play party games like Charades, Pictionary or Apples to Apples.
Also, videogames totally count. Have fun teaching your 90-year-old grandpa to play Mario Kart!
11. Take a Christmas lights tour
This is a fantastic after-dinner activity. You just pile everyone into the car and you drive around town looking at all the Christmas decorations. No matter where you live, there are guaranteed to be at least five people who get way to into their holiday lawn displays. And all it costs you is the money you spent on gas.
Just make sure you don’t let your grandpa drive after all those hours of Mario Kart. You don’t want him getting any ideas.
12. Plan ahead
It’s a little late for this one, so consider this advice for next year. You can take advantage of sales offered year-round and also outwit the laws of supply and demand. You know when the best time to buy a heavy winter coat is? June. (Just don’t do this with food. Drinking egg nog from July is a bad idea.)
It requires a lot of extra planning, but saving money always does. Plus, you always hear about how people wish the holiday spirit could last all year around. If you’re buying Christmas gifts for people at a Memorial Day sale, then isn’t that kind of what you’re doing? Not really. But close enough!