No one wants to be labeled as a Scrooge or Grinch at Christmas, but too many trips to the mall can bring out the miser in all of us. Expenses surrounding the most wonderful time of the year can quickly add up to a very unhappy New Year. Keep spending in check — and time spent standing in checkout lines low — with these 10 tips for saving on Christmas spending.
1. Set a budget for everything.
Create a written budget before you spend a dime, and try to make it as inclusive as possible. Set a budget for kids’ gifts, neighbor gifts, teacher gifts, Christmas cards and postage, holiday decorations (including a Christmas tree if you buy a fresh one each season), tickets to special events and even groceries for holiday meals and parties.
2. Stock up on food for special meals.
Buy the ingredients you need for your signature holiday dishes as they go on sale at the grocery store. Sales vary from week to week ,and if you shop smart you can purchase all of the ingredients you need for fancy holiday dinners, cookie exchanges and open houses at a major discount. “I try to think of the menu ahead of time, look at Pinterest and print out recipes and then purchase groceries as they go on sale,”says Jordan Page, blogger and founder of BudgetBootCamp.com and FunCheaporFree.com. “Buy a little as you go so that the night before you’re not rushing out and paying full price for everything.”
3. Give yourself a shopping deadline.
The longer you shop, the more you will likely spend. Page starts shopping as soon as Halloween is over with a goal to be finished by the beginning of December. “A few years ago I tried the whole thing where I shopped super ahead, and it just gave me a lot more time to shop,” she said, “I have never spent more. I’d find things for a good deal and then forget I bought them and buy more.” Give yourself a set deadline to keep buying in check and (bonus!) you’ll have more time to actually enjoy the holidays instead of spending every spare minute looking for a parking spot at Target.
4. Keep expectations in check.
Gift giving can quickly spiral out of control, even with the best intentions. Page recommends setting a limit on the number of gifts you give your children, even if you have a set budget amount, too. “What we do as parents is we buy our kids one gift and Santa always brings one gift,” says Page, a mother to five kids. “Santa always brings the lesser of the two.”
5. Stick with practical stocking stuffers.
Stocking stuffers can be a real budget buster. Just a few inexpensive gifts can quickly add up to an extra $50 per kiddo spent on trinkets you’ll likely step on or throw away by President’s Day. At the Page household, Santa brings practical items like a toothbrush and toothpaste. “We do a gift exchange on both sides of the family so between cousins and aunts and uncles (my kids) get spoiled rotten,” she says.
“We don’t skimp on gifts but by setting a budget in advance for everybody we can find great deals on really nice gifts.” —Jordan Page, founder of BudgetBootCamp.com
6. Shop with a digital list.
Keep a digital list on your smartphone to track what presents you’ve already purchased and how much you’ve spent. That way you can access your list anytime and won’t forget about gifts you’ve already purchased. (A digital list also keeps top-secret info away from curious little eyes.) The Evernote app or the spreadsheet option in Google Drive are two good mobile list-making options.
7. Buy tickets for special events as early as you can.
Tickets are one of the first things you should purchase, Page says. First, because it helps space out the hit on your budget and second, it sets the event firmly in the family calendar so the season doesn’t pass you buy. “If you really want to do it, pick one or two special things and buy those tickets early,” she says.
8. Arrange a Christmas name draw.
Drawing names for Christmas gifts can really cut down on costs, especially in big extended families. There is no right or wrong way to do it; one family can give to another family, one grown-up to another grown-up, or you can mix and match names among kids and adults. Set a limit per person. Page says her family does about $15 or less for child, $20 or less for teens and $35 or less for grownups. “We don’t skimp on gifts but by setting a budget in advance for everybody we can find great deals on really nice gifts,” she says.
9. Keep neighbor gifts simple.
Neighbor gifts are a nice gesture during the holidays but they don’t need to be a budget buster. “My goal is $1 per person or less,” Page says. “That doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can do it if you plan ahead.” There are plenty of frugal and useful neighbor gift ideas on Pinterest. Or to save on brain power year after year, consider making your neighbor gift an annual tradition your neighbors look forward to, like a loaf of homemade bread, a plate of your secret-ingredient cookies or a roll of tape and gift wrap.
10. Help kids make gifts for each other.
Instill a love of giving gifts from the heart by helping your kids create handmade gifts from each other. You’ll teach them the value of working with what you have, the joy of creating for someone you love and how to be a thoughtful gift-giver. Check out kids crafts books from the library, search “handmade gifts for kids” on Pinterest or scroll through a crafty blog like Design Mom, who posts yearly guides to handmade sibling gifts. This is also a great way to spend one-on-one time with your kids during the busy holiday season.