Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays!
If you haven’t heard those words already, don’t worry … you will soon. Because the holidays are just around the corner.
You know what that means … Christmas music. Christmas lights. And shopping for gifts.
Giving gifts to people you care about has become as much a part of the holidays as anything else. And it feels good to give.
But if you’re not careful, it can get expensive. Not the best thing if you’re trying to get or stay out of debt and improve your credit.
So how can you go about giving gifts to family and friends without destroying your holiday budget this year?
Here are some ideas to consider to stay in control of your holiday finances…
Make a List
Hey, Santa Claus makes a list, so why not you?
Start off by figuring out how much you can spend on holiday gifts this year (without going into debt to do it). Make it realistic. Next, write down the names of everyone on your gift list. Then put the dollar amount you’re willing to spend on each person by their name. Add up all the numbers.
If the total is more than your budget, start crossing people off your list or reducing the dollar amount for each person until you’re within your budget.
When you go shopping, take your list with you. If you spend less than planned on someone, you can spend more for someone else. Or if you spend too much on somebody, you’ll need to cut back on somebody else.
And let’s face it … you’re going to end up buying something for yourself while shopping, so add yourself to the list.
Creating a budget and making a list are great ideas to keep you from overspending. But you have to stick to your plan as well. You don’t want to end up like the many people who are still paying for last Christmas!
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Even with a budget, buying gifts for a lot of people can get really expensive. Is there a better way?
You do have other options. One idea is to have a drawing, where family members randomly pull a name out of a hat. Each person is responsible for buying a gift for the person whose name they drew. You can even make it a Secret Santa, where the identity of each gift giver is kept secret.
If you’re adventurous, you can even make your family gift-giving into a white elephant gift exchange.
The benefit of this approach is that everyone gets a gift, but rather than buying four or five or six gifts, you bought just one. Your bank account will thank you. And you’ll feel good about the money you didn’t spend.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your family about gift-giving this Christmas. You may find that other family members want to save money too. You can come up with a plan that everyone will be happy with, or at least most people.
Other gift-giving alternatives …
Give handmade gifts, whether it’s something you make or something you bake.
Give a “coupon” good for some personal service, like babysitting, cleaning the garage or cooking a delicious meal.
Buy more presents for the kids that are smaller or lower-cost so they’ll have more gifts to open.
Instead of individual gifts, get one gift for an entire family, like a zoo or museum membership. It’ll cost less and the family can enjoy your gift together.
And remember, the holidays are about family, sharing love and creating memories. That doesn’t have to cost anything.
Budget-Friendly Shopping Ideas
Okay, at some point, you’ll probably want to hit the malls and do some shopping, whether in person or online. Here are some ways to do it that’ll save you money …
Shop sales and bargains. If you know what items you’re shopping for, search for sales and bargains first. Retailers will be spreading out sales this year, so keep your eyes open. Generally, you should be able to find great deals from now until about December 10. Of course, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will offer lots of deals. But be careful … not everything will be on sale. Some items will even be more expensive than usual. So watch out!
If you have a price-comparing QR or bar code scan app on your phone (like Now Discount for iOS or Shop Savvy for Android), you can quickly check out deals whenever you’re in a physical store. When you find an item you’re interested in, scan the QR or bar code in the app. It will show you other places that have the same item and the price. If you find a lower price elsewhere, either buy the item from that other score, or negotiate with the store you’re in for the lower price. Retailers have a lot of competition and are often willing to lower their price in order to get your sale.
Shop at discount stores. Discount stores online and off provide another way to save money. Online, RetailMeNot.com, Overstock.com, Offers.com and Amazon.com have good prices and lots of deals. Offline, Costco, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods offer plenty of bargains. And don’t forget those dollar stores. Dollar Tree is great for gift wrap supplies. And Dollar General offers bigger-ticket items at good prices and with a variety of sales.
Summing it up…
Yes, it’s the holidays. Yes, giving gifts is fun. But don’t lose sight of your long-term financial goals. Christmas is one day. Christmas debt can last for months (or years). Is it really worth it? What if you can become debt-free? What if you can take the money you would have spent on gifts and instead use it to pay down debt … add to your savings … or even invest for the future?
It’s your choice. Use it wisely. And have a wonderful holiday.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.