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7 Easy Ways to Stay on Budget This Christmas

Liz has spent the last year on a journey of doing more with less.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For some people, the word Christmas brings to mind family, friends, hot cocoa, and gifts, but for others, it inspires panic and reminds them of debt. With the following seven tips, you can make the most of your holiday gift-giving to reduce your stress and have a wonderful, festive season.

Set a Budget.

Decide in advance how much you want to spend per person and stick to it. Whether you have a passel of nieces and nephews and want to spend $20 or $50 each or you want to spend $100 on your significant other, setting realistic budgets for how much you can spend will keep you on track. Tally it all up to make sure it fits within your overall budget.

Make a List and Check it Twice.

It is easy to lose track of everything you purchase, whether you shop in advance or in a flurry of Black Friday sales. Start a list of everyone that you need to shop for: parents, in-laws, children, friends, and co-workers. Notate things that you might want to get for them or that you already have and the amount you spent. This makes tracking your budget a lot easier.

What Do They Really Want?

Rather than buying the same generic gifts every year that just build up and get thrown away or donated (I'm looking at you, pile of stuffed animals in the corner and dusty bottles of scented lotion in the linen closet.), find out some things people really want. If it is a big item, see if someone else might want to split the cost of the gift with you. Are you tired of asking someone what they want and getting the "I don't know" answer? Try changing tactics. If someone mentions some hobbies or pastimes, ask questions about what they may need. If they bake, you may find out they like a certain brand of pan or could use an assortment of sprinkles. If someone is into photography, they may need some memory cards or spare batteries.

Skip the Gift Cards.

Gift cards have grown to be one of the most common gifts, whether for a restaurant or a store the recipient might shop at or a Visa gift card, but many gift cards go unused, whether because they are lost, forgotten, or just not wanted. According to a story by CNBC, "More than half of adults have unused gift cards." Add on top of that the Visa or Mastercard gift cards that charge the purchasers additional fees on top of the amount loaded on the card. If you think someone really needs the funds, and you have an idea for how they should use the money, give cash with a note and maybe a picture from an advertisement. As an example, give a card with a picture of a beach with a note that says, "For your upcoming vacation," or a cut-out advertisement featuring a video game system with a note that says, "Buy yourself a game."

Get Creative.

What better way to give a unique gift than to make it yourself. If you're crafty, you may knit, crochet, sew, or paint something awesome that will have a higher sentimental value than anything you could ever get in a store. If you're not particularly crafty, you may still be able to build a personality matching gift basket. Imagine someone that enjoys model cars receiving an assortment of brushes and paints and a model of their favorite car, or someone that is interested in foreign travel gets a picture book about their favorite country, an ethnic cookbook, and a foreign language phrasebook.
Creativity doesn't have to end with the gift itself. Wrapping paper and cards can be a fun way to show artistic skills. Use construction paper, kraft paper, or even brown shopping bags as your base, and then, let your creativity flow. Write funny or seasonal sayings. Draw pictures of Christmas trees, angels, stars, Santa, elves, or snowflakes. Cut out shapes. Let your mind go wild!

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Shop the Sales and Use Coupons.

Shopping can be overwhelming, but in this age of technology, it can be a little easier to find the best deals. Sites like Honey will watch for price drops and offer coupon codes and price comparisons. Rakuten is also a great site that offers coupon codes and cashback by using their app, browser extension, or link from their web page to the site you want to shop from. Google's search page also offers price comparison and will list nearby stores that should carry what you are looking for.

Avoid Shopping For Yourself

While shopping for others and seeing all of the amazing bargains, it can be tempting to pick up items for yourself. Try to hold yourself back and remember to ask if it is something you really need. In many cases, items will go on sale or clearance even cheaper once the holidays are over, and in the case of some big items, there are better times of year to buy for the best deals. As an example, televisions have another round of sales before the Super Bowl and cell phones drop in price when the newest model releases (usually summer/fall depending on the manufacturer).

If there is something that you truly need, like your washer is on its last leg, go ahead and take advantage of a sale to avoid the inevitable breakdown at the worst possible time when nothing is on sale.

Bonus Tip

There are plenty of things throughout the holiday season that don't involve gift-giving and cost little to no money. A simple pot-luck meal, a car ride through a neighborhood to see Christmas lights, and community events are great ways to kindle the festive spirit without breaking the bank. Check out the Events page on Facebook, Eventbrite, or Meetup for plenty of fun ideas, or just turn on a favorite movie and enjoy the company of your friends and family.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Liz Woodward

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