To create the image promoted by the media as a “happy holiday,” Americans are tapping into their 401k, emergency savings, or taking out loans. 25% of Americans take drastic measures to provide their image of the perfect holiday, racking up additional debt that takes at least half the year to pay off. A study conducted by T. Rowe Price confirmed parents spend an average of $422 and 34% spend $500 or more per child.
There are ways to create a wonderful holiday experience without depleting your emergency fund. Top ways to save money without sacrificing quality include the following:
Make A List and Check It Twice
Before you hit the stores, write down the people you want to buy for and gift ideas. Consider how long the list needs to be. Is it necessary to buy gifts for neighbors, friends, and co-workers? A freshly baked loaf of bread, cookies, or an act of service can show appreciation without costing much money.
Prepare Enough Time
Cooking, decorating, gift wrapping, and holiday events require time and can add to your stress when not managed. Breaking down large tasks into small increments and completing projects over several days instead of all at once, can alleviate stress.
When pressed for time, it is easy to buy things out of convenience rather than price. The results can be eating out more, buy prepared meals rather than cooking your own, or hiring someone to wrap gifts, drive children to events, or decorate your home, because you overbooked your time.
For example, if you want to host a holiday dinner, begin a few days in early, making desserts and preparing vegetables, so on the day of the event you are not overwhelmed. Hiring help or buying pre-prepared foods will cost a lot more than a home-cooked meal.
Setting realistic expectations about what you can and will accomplish, will reduce stress and allow you to save money on your favorite activities.
Sending E-Cards is a way to reach out to family and friends while lowering costs and speeding up delivery. Rather than sending a stack of letters and cards to family and friends, E-cards are less expensive and eliminate the cost of postage.
Search Flea Markets for Inexpensive Gifts
Flea markets are a treasure trove of new or nearly new items at inexpensive prices, which can make perfect holiday gifts. Vendors who enjoy making crafts frequent flea markets to sell their wares. You receive discounted prices because you do not pay a premium for in-store placement or online shipping.
You can also find used items, which you can use to create a unique gift. For example, you can buy an old piece of furniture and refinish, paint, or add your personal touch. Pinterest is a great place for ideas on how to reinvent older items into new and interesting pieces of artwork.
Markets also feature new items including toys, clothes, housewares, and tools, which make great gift items for the holidays.
Open A Separate Bank Account
Ideally, you want to set money aside each month to pay for the increased cost incurred during the holidays. Using a separate account makes it easier to track both saving and spending. You can direct deposit a small amount each paycheck to build savings faster. Using windfalls, selling items you have at home, but no longer use, and other one-time payments can provide a debt-free holiday. The earlier you begin, the more you can save.
Earn Cash Back on Everything You Buy
Sites such as MyPoints provide a smart way to earn cash as you shop for the items you were planning to buy anyway.
Retail stores often offer loyalty programs and online cash back programs such as Ebates, earn money while shopping. Rebates are also popular during the holidays, saving you money, provided you send in forms before the deadline. Retailers offering cash back for future shopping trips can save additional money. For instance, Kohls frequently runs offers for $10 cash back when you spend $50. You can use your bonus dollars the following week.
Choose Cheaper Traditions
Not all holiday traditions are expensive. Choosing alternatives to expensive activities can still provide time together with loved ones without the higher bill. For example, instead of going to a formal light display, drive through neighborhoods and enjoy the decorations and light displays free of charge.
Bring children to see Santa Clause at the mall or a national store chain offering Santa visits, without buying the expensive pictures offered. Make crafts, build snowmen, or gingerbread houses with family and friends, giving you plenty of laughter at a low cost.
Caroling is also a fun tradition you can do as a family to spread the joy of the holidays.
Give the Same Gift to Multiple People
Find something you enjoy making, baking, or buying and then use economies of scale to save money. Think of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and potential gift exchanges where you are asked to give a small gift. Then find an item you can buy or make and do it in bulk to reduce costs.
Gifts that are easy to repeat for friends and family can include cookie trays, holiday bread, personalized gifts, or magazine subscriptions. For example, Blue Dolphin frequently runs specials for $2 magazines you can order for yourself or friends as gifts. Magazines your are currently subscribing to may also offer a promotion including, free gift subscriptions when you renew for another year.
Move the Holiday
While it may not be an option for everyone, moving the day you celebrate the holiday can save everyone money. For example, celebrating Christmas on a day other than December 25 allows family members to travel at off-peak times, lowering travel costs. Celebrating after the holiday can allow you to take advantage of after-holiday sales.
The above strategies help you save money during the holidays, giving you the opportunity to spend time with your friends and family without stressing about the upcoming January bills.