Oh yeah, I’m going there; Christmas is far too expensive. With all the new, ever more costly things that exist on the market nowadays, Christmas shopping and Christmas in general has become entirely too stressful. Who knows, maybe because I’m finally a real-ish adult this is just the reality that I have been blissfully sheltered from my whole life. If that’s the case, I’m making it my mission to challenge it. I fully believe Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, can be equally enjoyable and affordable if you put in enough planning, effort, and time.
Here are 7 truly easy ways you can cut back on excessive spending this Christmas season, and help you enjoy he holiday without breaking the bank!
1. Make A List & Commit To It
Nope, not the naughty or nice list.
Making a list of who to shop for helps set the stage for everything else (ie. how much to spend, what to buy, when to buy it, etc), and it will help you stay organized when shopping, ultimately saving you money. Start with your must-haves, the people you actually need to gift something to, usually immediate family and significant others. Then move on to friends, extended family, and co-workers. This is where it might get tricky, because this list might be a bit more lengthy. Remove anyone that you aren’t expecting a gift from, anyone who you don’t talk to or hang out with on a regular basis, and anyone who you otherwise wrote down because you felt obligated to. Pick your core group, and add them to your shopping list. Once you have your list of people, stick to it. Don’t deviate because a last-minute straggler popped up that you feel obligated to shop for, or because you found something that “they would totally love!”. While it’s incredibly thoughtful, it’s not good for your wallet.
Use this list as your road map during the holiday chaos. I usually use my list to keep track of my gift ideas, actual gifts purchased, budgets, and dates for gift exchanges. It’s the best way I’ve found to keep my priorities and my money on track.
2. Set A Budget
So while you’re diligently figuring out who to include on your shopping list, set each person with a budget. I personally like the person-by-person budgeting method because it gives me a clearer idea when I’m shopping what I can and can’t buy, otherwise I’d go overboard on everyone right out of the gate. Some people on my list are usually set a little higher, depending on what I’m either willing to spend or what I want to gift them, while some are set lower. You could also just set a spending cap for your shopping as a whole, which is an effective way to make sure you don’t get wrapped up in last-minute spending or unexpected expenses (like I always forget about gift wrapping…always).
Once you’ve decided on your budget, set that money aside, either literally with cash or figuratively by just keeping track of it through your bank account, and stick to it while shopping. It’ll make the whole process a lot less overwhelming and it’ll save you money in the long-run.
3. Start Early
Fellow procrastinators, here is my challenge to you. I challenge you to even just consider Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving and see how that feels. Scary? Maybe. Too soon, perhaps? Halloween just ended after all. But is it any less terrifying or overwhelming than ordering that last-minute scented candle for your aunt because you think you remember her saying once she liked the smell of cinnamon and you can’t think of anything else to get her and it’s 3 days before Christmas and you’re hoping that your AmazonPrime doesn’t fail you this time?
Yeah, start early. Get a game-plan (the list!), and don’t put it off. You’ll have time to really think about something meaningful to give, and you won’t feel rushed, which is where a lot of impulse, and expensive, purchases tend to to happen.
4. “Treat Yo’ Self” Less
The more you spend on yourself, the less you can spend on others, plain and simple. Do yourself, and your wallet, a favor and cut off big-ticket, splurge spending on yourself mid-to-late October. No shopping sprees, no additional spa days, and nothing off your wish-list. Take it a step further & limit your everyday non-essential spending, too. Maybe skip that 5th trip to Starbucks this week, or pack your lunch more often. A little here and there saved goes a long way, and it can really help boost your funds for Christmas gifts.
Does this mean you have to live off beans and rice the last 3 months of the year? Definitely not. But being conscious of your extra spending habits, especially during the holidays, will only help you better keep track of what you can and can’t spend on gifts. Not sure where to start? Read #6.
5. Get Crafty
If you really want to flex your DIY muscle this Christmas, handmade gifts are always an excellent option for anyone on your shopping list. Projects like handmade pottery, decorated glassware, or photo collages all are completely do-able (trust me, I’ve accomplished all of these and more, and my crafting skills are moderate at best). Not only will it show that you really put extra time and thought into your gift, but it’s also super effective in saving money, especially if you have a lot of people on your shopping list that are hard to shop for. Use inspiration from Pinterest, or browse crafty bloggers like Earnest Home Co. or Poppytalk.
Growing up, the tradition in my family became gift baskets. Each member in my immediate family would contribute one or two crafted items that they were responsible for to include in the basket. When this tradition started, we had a lot of extended family to shop for, so doing it this way cut down on time and costs because we did a lot of things in bulk (food items mostly), while saving dedicated time for the more personalized crafts. The tradition, happily enough, still continues to this day. This year, I have even taken the lead on my own gift basket to give to some on my shopping list. SOS.
6. Shop Sales
This one kind of feels like a no-brainer, but I feel it bares repeating. Sales. Are. Your. Best. Friend. I know the Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday sales and whatever other day of the week sales they come up with always seem very flashy and kind of unnecessary, but if you’re looking to save an extra buck, sales are the easiest way to do it. Take advantage of them as much as you can, even the ones in your inbox you ignore every other day of the year.
My one and only Black Friday experience (I’m sorry, but Cyber Monday exists now sooo…) I stumbled upon a dramatically cheap tablet that I gifted to my mom that year for Christmas. It was one of my better, more useful, gifts to her over the years, and I wouldn’t have even considered it at full retail price, so I’m extremely happy that I found it, and found it at the price that I did. (Mom, since you’re reading this, I’m sorry you had to find out this way.)
My point is, don’t let your pride get in the way of a good deal. A lot of retailers purposely discount and clearance items around the holidays and there’s no reason not to jump on it. When you go to a store, shop the clearance rack first. Hell, even hit up a Goodwill or another thrift store. Those places are gold mines if you look hard enough. It might take more time to do more diligent price comparisons and thrift shopping, but it’ll save you big bucks this Christmas.
7. Use Cash-Back Rewards & Price Comparison Apps
On the subject of price comparison, do yourself a favor and install Honey. This isn’t a paid plug, I just genuinely love this extension. Every time you shop Honey does all the heavy lifting for you as far as scouring the internet to find cheaper prices for whatever you’re buying, or finds relevant coupons for that store that you can automatically apply to your checkout. It even has a cash-back program, so after a while of online shopping (which, let’s face it, you’re going to do anyway), you can end up earning some of that back.
Cash-back rewards are also available on a lot of major credit cards, and that’s something that can definitely help save (or at least recover) costs during Christmas. It’s really simple; every time you buy something on your cash-back credit card, you’re expected to pay it back right away anyway, but as an added bonus your credit card rewards kick back an extra few dollars to you just for using the card in the first place. As long as you don’t spend yourself into more debt than you can reasonably pay off, this strategy can work really well.