Guest post by Ashley from Embracing Beauty
Christmas is great for spending time with friends and family, as well as giving gifts. Unfortunately, too many times, though, people don’t properly plan ahead for it and they end up making a list of money mistakes.
The key to avoiding a holiday season that puts your bank account in the red is to start planning early. Here are my top 10 money-saving tips to help you steer clear of holiday debt and to get a good financial start to the new year:
- Develop a Christmas budget. Keep it separate from your regular budget. Start with how much you have to spend on Christmas gifts and from there list everyone you want to buy for, how much you can spend on them, gift ideas and places to find them. Purpose to only spend the money you have and when it’s gone you stop buying. Millions of Americans are still paying off their credit cards from last Christmas, don’t follow in their footsteps!
- Take inventory. Check your closet, under your bed, or anywhere you might have stashed your early purchases. Try to think back, did you stock up on leather gloves at last year’s post-holiday sales? Check before buying more pairs.
- Host a card signing party. In lieu of gifts to friends, an easy way to save money at Christmas is to prepare holiday cards together. Ask each guest to bring cookies or an appetizer. You provide drinks, tables to write on, and a good supply of pens. It will be a fun way to socialize, brainstorm gift ideas, unwind, and fellowship together!
- Bring the envelopes, leave the credit cards. Allocate an amount of money for each gift and put that money into a separate envelope marked with the recipient’s name. Leave your credit cards at home. Did you know that our brains actually feel pain when we spend cash? It’s true! Spending with a check or debit card registers less pain and with a credit card almost no pain at all.
- Get creative. There are endless websites that can give you step-by-step instructions to make yummy desserts, gifts in a jar, or crafts to give your loved ones. Don’t forget to search for free printable gift tags while you’re at it!
- Consider drawing names. If you have a large family or a lot of people at the office to buy for suggest a name draw. You’d be surprised at how pleasant Christmas can be when you don’t spend a ton of money and end up stressing yourself out trying to find the perfect gift for so many people.
- Avoid the pseudo-deal. Avoid the “Buy More, Save More” slogans, the “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotions, and the arbitrary limits on purchases. There are numerous other pseudo-deals out there and if you’re not familiar with typical prices on these items, you may fall victim to the pseudo-deal.
- Don’t buy for yourself. When you’re shopping for gifts, it’s easy to be tempted to buy things for yourself. Try to make this season about giving to others. It may also help to remember that the items you want now will likely be less expensive during the after-season sales!
- Give the gift of time. The gift of time and caring can mean much more than a present–for both giver and recipient. Shovel snow for elderly neighbors, or get a group together to surprise them with an old-fashioned caroling visit.
- Give practical gifts. Every year my grandmother gave me a toothbrush in my stocking. As a child, I’ll admit, it wasn’t the most exciting gift, but it was one that I would use. Even though it was a practical gift, it was still fun to open.
Last but not least, remember that the spirit of Christmas isn’t about “stuff.” You can have a giving spirit without having a maxed out credit card. Don’t forget the reason for the season!
Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl. She teaches couponing classes and authors the frugal blog, Embracing Beauty, where she encourages others to Embrace God’s best for their finances, home, and life.