Surviving the Holidays… On a Budget!

Tis the season to be jolly, or in our family tis the season of birthdays, holidays and stretching our budget very thin! Over the years I have learned a few ways to embrace the joys of the season, without blowing our budget. After all, this is the time of year to spread holiday cheer so I am going to share my favorite tips with you…

Start Saving Early– I learned early on that in order to actually save for the holiday season sometimes that means you have to put a little bit a side each pay check starting in January. This amount can be as little as $10 a week. Some banks even have special programs called holiday savings accounts that are designed so you can only pull the money out of the accounts on designated times of the year, to prevent you from spending the money.

Get Crafty– Everyone loves handmade gifts! Every year my husband and I bake cookies and make peanut butter balls that we wrap up and give as gifts. Not only are these delicious treats but people seem to really love getting them as gifts! Some other ideas I have done in the past are made photo books, candles, ornaments and knitted scarves! So whatever your crafty talent may be, you can put it to good use!

Shop Around– (and I don’t mean department stores…) I’m talking about checking out yard sales and online market places for used and gently used items. Sometimes you can even get items for free or for half the cost as the department stores asking price. You just need to be willing to put in the extra TLC and give it a good cleaning or a fresh coat of paint.

Split the Cost– When buying a larger gift for someone, sometimes you can split the cost with another person or a group of people like you might split the check with a large group at a restaurant. I have done this in the past and it works out great when everyone contributes. It is a wonderful way to get that special someone the gift that you want to get them without breaking the bank!

Cheapest way to Travel– This can get a bit tricky! If you need to fly during the holidays be sure to save up for your flights ahead of time and be sure to book the flights early or as soon as a deal hits. There are tons of flight tracking websites that can help you find good prices for the flights and cities you are looking for. Some can even help you find deals for last minute travel. To save on the cost of hotel, ask to stay with friends and family instead. My advice is if you have to travel during the holidays always look into your cheapest transportation options. Ever since we started having children, we are always comparing flying versus driving for our family of five. Holidays have become more complicated for us and, because of that, it is cheapest around the holidays for us to spend the holidays at home. If family wants to visit then they are welcome too! Just be sure to chose the best option for you and your family!

Shop Online– As much as I love shopping in stores, sometimes it is just better for my budget to shop online. Especially when the store offers free shipping or with free curbside and/or in store pick up. Shopping online keeps me sticking to my list and my budget! Plus you can compare the cost with other retailers with a click of a button.

Swap Names– My three kids love to buy each other gifts around the holidays but our budget can’t be stretched for nine extra gifts. Swapping names saves us a ton of money! To do the swap, we have everyone put their names in a hat and each draw a name. Then we give them a set dollar amount limit and take them to the store and let them shop for one another. The best part about this is they get really excited to see their brother or sister open their present since they put a lot of thought into their gift. Some schools even offer holiday store programs where the students can shop for gifts at school and they will even wrap the gifts at school. We have done this in the past as well.

Shop Sales– I am a clearance rack shopper, a couponer, a discount store hunter, you name it I will hunt down the sale to find the best price. So don’t be afraid to do your research and find the best coupon or the best store price for the item you are looking for. Also, don’t be afraid to shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These can be hit or miss depending on the item you are looking for but sometimes they can save you a pretty penny! My husband and I love shopping on Black Friday at the outlets. We get some great deals plus it’s the perfect date night! Win-Win!

Stock up on Promotional Gift Cards– Anytime I can take a survey or refer a friend, I get a free gift card. I stash it away for the holidays. These make great gifts or can be used to buy great gifts for the holidays! For the foodies in your life be on the look out for restaurant gift card deals in the winter months. Many restaurants like to have promotional gift card deals where you buy a certain amount in gift cards and you get a bonus gift card for free. Just make sure you check to see if the gift cards have a use by date before you stash them away!

Yankee Swap or White Elephant Gift– I love these gift swaps because they are outside the box. Usually you play these types of holiday swap games at parties but I have done them with family as well. It is a great way to mix up the holidays, plus it’s an easy gift that stays within our budget. If you don’t know what a Yankee swap is, it is when you bring a wrapped or unwrapped gift to an event. Usually the gift has to be under a certain price point and most of the time it is cheap! The gift is usually something practical like a candle, a blanket, sometimes if it is an adult gathering you could do wine or scratch tickets. Then you draw names or numbers and when you are called you pick a gift and unwrap it and you chose to keep it or swap it with another person for another gift. It is a fun little game. White elephant has the same rules except the twist is that the gift is usually something silly like toilet paper or used gift cards. The point is usually to buy or find the most outrageous gift… plus it makes the game more fun! These are great games to play if you are hosting a party so everyone goes home with a gift and plus its a fun game that everyone wins.

So there you have it folks, I hope you enjoyed my tips! I also, hope you have a season of savings, a season of cheer, and to top it off a wonderful New Year!

Happy Holidays!

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