16 Ways to Save Money At Christmas
If you want Christmas to still be the most wonderful time of the year without going into debt, you can be more intentional and impact-full with your spending and your savings. Not only do you need to plan ahead for Christmas by setting aside the cash early, but you need to cut expenses and save money where you can. This means you will either have extra money to use if some expenses are more than expected, or after Christmas you will have extra cash to throw at debt payments or savings depending on where you’re at in your financial journey. Here’s 16 tips to help you make the most of your Christmas budget.
MAKE A BUDGET & TRACK ALL SPENDING
If you want to limit how much you spend at Christmas, it’s important that you set a Christmas budget (even more detailed than your monthly budget) and stick to it. Set reasonable guidelines for your budget so you can still purchase what you need to but let the limits keep you from getting out of control with the spending. And beyond just creating the budget, you need to stay on top of tracking your spending at all times. Not tracking what you’ve spent could easily cause you to overspend and completely blow the budget. Just make a plan, and stick to the plan.
SAVE ON TRAVEL
If you’re traveling and need a place to stay, book your hotel through Booking.com so you can cut back on travel expenses. I have booked our hotels through Booking.com multiple times for short trips and they have always gotten us a good rate, a smooth experience, and so far I have absolutely no complaints. But to save even more money, think about staying with relatives or whoever you’re traveling to visit. Sometimes it can present awkward or less than ideal situations when you stay with family but decide if it’s worth sacrificing for a few days so you can use the extra money towards something like your debt snowball.
SHOP WITH CASH
One of the best ways to keep your spending under control is to pay with cash instead of plastic. Even if you’re using a debit card, it’s mentally different than paying with cash. With plastic you swipe the card and the cashier gives you both your card and your purchased items back. With cash, there’s an exchange happening. You have to give up the cash to get the items you’re purchasing. And, if you only carry with you the cash you plan to spend, you won’t be tempted to go over budget because you can’t!
Related: Why Credit Cards Are a Terrible Idea
DON’T OVER-DO THE DECORATIONS
I love a nice and cozy Christmas setting just as much as anyone else (maybe more) but if you’re in a situation where money is tight or you need to be paying off debt as quickly as possible, then cut way back on the decorations. Use things from previous years and try to style them differently if you need a refresher. You might even be able to shop your parent’s attic for some decor they don’t use any more. Buy second hand if there’s something you just can’t go without, but make sure it’s important. Save all the decorating for when you’re debt free and can enjoy it without sacrificing the important things.
GIVE A HANDMADE GIFT
If you have a talent that would make a great Christmas gift, give that! You’d be surprised at how much more meaningful it is to receive a gift someone personally thought of and made for you. This will save you lots of money and make a way bigger impact. If you’re thinking you don’t have time to hand make gifts, just remember that you make time for the things that are important. So if paying off debt and having a debt free Christmas is worth your time, get started early making those gifts!
SHOP DEALS AND CLIP COUPONS
When I’m shopping for Christmas I love to shop deal sites like Jane.com to find unique gifts that are inexpensive and help me get the most out of my budget for each person I’m buying for. You can even find gifts at Groupon.com but what I really love them for are experience packages like a movie ticket deal (you’re basically gifting a date night, #bestgiftever). Finding coupons to use can sometimes be more difficult but I usually do a quick search online for whatever I’m going to purchase to see if I can get a coupon for it. The important thing to remember when shopping with deals and coupons is to only buy things you would buy even without the deal or coupon. If you buy something on sale that you wouldn’t have purchased anyway, you didn’t actually save money, you spent it.
CHOOSE CHEAP TRADITIONS
Don’t let the Christmas traditions break the bank either. Choose things that are meaningful and fun but keep the expenses low. Driving around neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights can be way less expensive than paying to drive through a display of lights at events (my family has driven through neighborhoods looking at lights my entire life!). Instead of sending expensive Christmas cards, find some that cost less but still let you send that sweet photo to loved ones. I personally love using PhotoAffections.com (use code jtingle19 when you sign up and you’ll earn 5 free prints each month). Instead of everyone exchanging gifts at family gatherings, opt for a potluck dinner and playing games together.
GET CASH BACK FOR GIFTS
This might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. If you’re going to be shopping and purchasing during the Christmas season (or really, anytime throughout the year) why not get an added bonus of cash back for your purchases? Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is perfect for this and so easy to use. It’s one of those things I heard about but never paid much attention to and now I realize how much I was missing out. It’s completely free to sign up, you get cash back on purchases you were already going to make anyway, and they send you a check or gift card for your cash back earnings. Click here to sign up for Rakuten through my referral link and get a $10 welcome bonus. As I mentioned before, the important thing to remember when shopping with deals, coupons, and cash back is to only purchase things you would be purchasing anyway!
WRAP WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
Get creative when it comes to gift wrapping. You might already have some things around the house you can use. We’re always known for reusing boxes so when our family opens gifts they know not to go by what’s on the box. Use newspaper and some curling ribbon to wrap gifts; it’s eco-friendly and will still look beautiful. And the best gift wrapping tip of all is to reuse gift bags and tissue paper! We have stash of bags and tissue paper we’ve been gifted and we always pull from those to reuse (and throw out anything not in good condition). It’s easy to rack up spending for gift wrapping, so make it pretty but keep the real gift the main thing and don’t spend where’s it’s not necessary.
REUSE OLD GIFT CARDS
There’s no reason to let a gift card sit there going unused and unappreciated, someone paid money for that. If you can use gift cards you already have, even with partial balances, to buy your Christmas gifts, you’re cutting out some expenses! If you have a gift card to a store or restaurant or something you don’t normally purchase from, see if there’s someone you can gift it to that will appreciate it or maybe you can even swap with a friend or family member. If everyone wants to go out to eat for a Christmas get together, convince them to go somewhere you already have a gift card for. Just don’t let those gift cards sit around while you spend your hard earned income.
SAY NO TO GIFT EXCHANGES
Don’t just give to give. If you get offered to join in a random gift exchange, just say no. Save your money to give thoughtful gifts to the important ones on your list. Your co-workers will be okay without another gag gift to throw away. If there’s just absolutely no way out, commit to making something that costs you little or no money or convince everyone to give second-hand gifts.
DON’T SHOP AT THE MALL
First of all, let’s just cut out the stress and exhaustion from parking lot jams and crowds of people. Secondly, avoiding the mall will help you avoid a lot of the in your face marketing and salesmen at every kiosk. Not to mention, the cinnamon rolls and tempting treats around every corner. With all the sale shenanigans going on at the end of the year, it’s easy to think these retailers are on your side trying to get you a deal. But let’s be honest, they just want a piece of the billions (yes, billions) of dollars spent during this time of year. Don’t fall trap to the sales and marketing. Buy what you need and stick to the list.
Related: 20 Ways to Reduce Impulse Purchases
MAKE YOUR LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
You created a gift giving budget list for a reason. Check it twice. Check it three times. Keep it front and center during your shopping excursions. Whatever you do, don’t stray from the list. Obviously, if you left someone important off your list, it’s okay to add them. But, if you see a snowglobe that Aunt Sally would just love but you don’t typically exchange gifts with her…don’t buy it! And for the people who are on your list, keep up with the budget per person and track your spending for each one. The easiest way to overspend is by spending off the list.
Shop early to get the best deals. Especially if you’re shopping online, ordering early will help save on shipping costs (plus reduce your stress level). Some stores will even offer free shipping with a minimum purchase, but just be sure you actually need the things you’re buying and don’t just spend money to get the free shipping. And if you’re budgeting for Christmas months in advance, you have the ultimate advantage because if you see a great deal on a gift you know is perfect, you can buy it and know you have the cash for it. Remember, the important thing here is to still be organized and don’t spend just to spend. A side note on shopping early: designate a place for those gifts to go so weeks or months later when it’s time to wrap you can find them and don’t need to buy more gifts (you laugh, but it happens!).
TALK WITH FAMILY
This may be the hardest tip to swallow, but it’s probably the most beneficial. It’s time to have a clear and honest conversation with your family. If you’re really in a tight spot trying to pay off debt, just be honest and let your family know that Christmas is going to temporarily look different while you’re paying off debt. Talk about cutting back on how much you spend on each other, or cutting out some exchanges altogether. You may be surprised that some of your family members are feeling the exact same way. If you and your siblings are just exchanging gift cards, then stop the money spending and focus on just spending time together. Remember this season of giving is for giving with purpose, not just for the sake of giving.
REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
As obvious as it may be to remember the true meaning of Christmas, we often times get too distracted by shopping, planning, stressing, and even giving. It’s important to remember we celebrate Christmas as a reminder of Jesus’ birth, the ultimate gift we could ever receive. When you put things into perspective, it can be easier to put less pressure on all the financial strains of the season. Instead of presents, focus on being present. Instead of giving physical gifts, make it a higher priority to give your time and attention. And don’t go into debt just meet the Christmas standards that the world has set. Jesus loves you and died for you regardless of what’s under your tree, or if you even have a tree!