With only a few weeks to go until the holiday season kicks off, the time has come to start financial planning. The Christmas period is the most expensive of the year and can leave many of us in financial difficulty afterwards. All the presents, decorations, and food don’t come cheap. (Although they are so worth it!)
But does the holiday season necessarily have to bankrupt you? Or is there anything you can do to save money? Take a look at some of these ideas and tips that can help you protect your bank balance.
Use The “Secret Santa” Gift Method
Buying a gift for everybody in your workplace or extended family is expensive. Furthermore, when you have to buy so many presents, quality suffers – it’s more of a numbers game. So what’s the solution?
Enter Secret Santa. If you don’t already know, this is a system whereby each person in the group buys a present for just one other person. Under this system, everybody gets something, and you don’t have to purchase multiple gifts. Each person in the group draws lots from a hat with other group members’ names written on them. They then buy the person named on the lot a gift. Simple. Not only does this improve the quality of the present the person receives, but it also helps you save money too. It’s a win-win.
Avoid Expensive Traditions
The holiday season tends to bring out people’s competitive nature. You may have noticed that some streets have more lights on the houses than others. It could be by chance, but more likely, it’s a game of one-upmanship where everybody in the neighbourhood is trying to outdo the other with the best lights.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Other expensive holiday traditions include extravagant gifts, huge parties, and buying mountains of expensive liquor. So what are the alternatives to help you save money?
The holiday season wasn’t always an expensive affair: in the past, most people didn’t have the disposable income to enjoy many of the “traditions” that we have today. They found other, cheaper ways to entertain themselves, from singing carols to making their own Christmas gifts, to baking together as a family. If it snowed outside, they’d go sledding, or on rainy days, watch something on TV with a hot festive drink.
Get Everybody To Contribute To Parties
You can easily spend several hundred dollars on food and drink for a Christmas party, even if you only expect a couple of dozen people. But there is a way that you can cut down on party costs: ask everybody to bring at least one bottle of drink or dish with them. Again, this is a win-win situation. Most people like to feel as if they are contributing to festivities, and when they do, it saves you money on your grocery bill.
Beware Of Holiday Sales – Some Are Better Than Others
When you think of the holiday season, you don’t often think about sales. They come later, in January, right? The answer is both “yes” and “no.” While it’s true that the majority of sales happen after the Christmas rush, some retailers do offer opportunities for buyers to save money beforehand.
Not all sales, however, are created equal, so it’s a good idea to use a barcode scanning app to compare prices to those in other shops and on the web. Many retailers will claim a Black Friday event, but this can often be a ruse to get customers through the door to flog product lines that didn’t sell well during the year. Be savvy when making purchases. Could the item be found cheaper elsewhere?
Start Budgeting Ahead Of Time
One of the reasons people have to take out loans or get advances over the holiday season is that they fail to add up all of the Christmas expenses in a systematic way. This inevitably leads to overspending because they omit necessary expenses.
So what’s the solution? First, allocate a budget: an amount of money that you can afford to spend without getting into financial difficulty in the new year. The next is to create an itemized list of expenses. Don’t just focus on the obvious things like presents and food. Make a list of the other costs that you’ll incur, including travel to relatives, extra time off work, and smaller expenses like decorations or pantomime tickets. Does your budget allow you to pay for all those things? If not, look for ways to painlessly substitute expensive items for cheaper ones. Swap out that $100 bottle of brandy for a cheaper, more generic version priced $25.