I’m a big believer in spending money smartly. Instead of cramming into the mall on the 15th of December, for instance, all my shopping is done. I attacked my list in a swift 2 hour excursion on Wednesday morning last week. I kept my spending down too - I only bought gifts for my immediate family, plus one $20 knick-knack for a secret santa party.
But now, for me, the key is to truly maximize my gift-savings. Last year it wasn’t so pretty; I was so proud of my frugality when it came to shopping that I totally blew my budget on all the other expensive holiday elements.
Food & Alcohol
Eating a late lunch or dinner after shopping is natural, but nothing makes you hungrier or thirstier than shopping on a budget. Why? Because if you’re saving so much money on gifts you don’t need, then it’s way easier to spend money on food you do need!
Alcohol is dangerous during the holidays for financial reasons as well. Again, it’s easy to justify an $80 bottle of wine if you’ve just saved a bunch of money not buying gifts for your extended family.
Depending on your circumstances, travelling during the holidays is more important than food, alcohol and gifts anyways, but it’s also the most expensive thing you can spend your money on. Flying over christmas can have a huge impact on your budget, far more than gift-shopping.
The problem is that for many people there is no alternative. The only way to save money while travelling is to do so during non-peak times or to book well in advance.
This one’s easy, right? Well, without a decorated house, sometimes the spirit of the holidays literally goes right out the window. Lights, trees, wreaths, candles, inside and outside - it all adds up, but capturing the essence of the season is important for a lot of people.
The answer? Find decorations at dollar stores or second-hand thrift stores. Not only can you find great deals on things you’re only going to see for three weeks, you’ll find unique decorations that you won’t find in any of your friends’ houses over the holidays.
We talk a lot here on the blog about good credit vs bad credit and specific techniques for improving your credit on a weekly basis. To summarize, credit cards and debt don’t have to be scary, but spending with your credit card over the holidays can easily get away from you. As long as you stick to a budget you’ll be fine, but remember, you’re going to have to pay the interest down soon, so it might be a better idea to stick to cash or debit if you don’t want a large interest bill in January.
Alright, so now that you’ve eliminated all the costs associated with buying gifts, your holiday budget is free and clear, right? Well, not if you have all of these items that pack a larger fiscal punch. The key is to prioritize and save where you can. Christmas parties and general cheer adds up, so make sure you’re mindful of your non-mall spending habits this year.