The holiday season brings out the generous side of almost all of us, and Americans spend a lot of money on gifts and parties. Credit cards make it easy to pay, and we tend to swipe them and not think about how much money we just dropped. Then when the bills come in January, we faint because of how much money we shelled out over the holidays.
To keep your holiday spending from getting out of control, I’ve got a few tips to help you budget. From shopping to parties, you won’t have to work yourself to the bone paying off your credit card bills come January if you follow this advice.
Holiday Shopping Budget
Make a list and stick to it
A list definitely helps keep you on track and prevents you from buying things you don’t need. So before you go out, write down the names of the people you have to buy gifts for. Then decide how much you want to spend on each person. Also write down any gifts you have in mind and the price of each.
I find that creating a list helps me stay organized at the store. I can check off names and hold myself accountable for sticking to it. If it’s not on my list, then it doesn’t go in my cart – simple as that.
Look for sales
Doing research beforehand helps you save time and money. Scour newspapers and the Internet for the best deals. If you have a smartphone, use apps that can compare prices with other retailers to save you money. Admit it – there’s nothing more disappointing than seeing something you just bought at a lower price somewhere else.
Use cash only
Grab a specific amount out of the ATM before you head out shopping and stick to it. If you budget $100 on your significant other, don’t spend a penny over. Once you run out of cash, you’re done – game over. Don’t feel tempted to pull a few bucks from the nearby ATM, either. You might get charged a ridiculously high fee just to buy an extra $5 trinket.
Bring snacks with you or eat before shopping
Maybe this sounds a bit out of place, but hear me out first. Make sure you eat a meal before you go, and pack a few snacks and drinks. Mall food courts and fast food purchases add up during the holiday season.
Make your own gifts
You could altogether skip the malls and megastores by creating some DIY holiday gifts. Making your own gifts saves you a little money. More importantly, it shows the recipient that you wanted to give them something special that they can’t buy at a store.
Holiday Party Budget
Holiday parties are a lot of fun to host, and getting friends and family together is a cornerstone of the season. However, the cost can put a huge dent in your wallet. I’ve got a few tips to help you throw a budget-friendly holiday party and still have a great time.
Make it BYOB
Liquor, beer and wine can drive up the cost of your party significantly – especially if you want to serve top-shelf stuff. Taking alcohol out of the equation saves you money. Encourage your guests to either abstain from drinking or bring their own beverages of choice. If your guests do decide to drink, take the car keys from anyone who appears to be unable to drive and call them a cab.
Stick with finger food
Meat and other proteins can break the budget of your holiday party. Keep things light with snacks and finger food. Consider going a healthy route, even. Dips, veggie trays and fruits are great alternatives to expensive, heavy holiday meals.
Serving snacks also keeps you from working over a hot stove for hours in the kitchen. Most snack items can be made the day before – allowing you to spend more time with family and friends at the party.
Throw a potluck dinner
People like breaking out special recipes for holiday parties, especially if they know it’ll be a potluck dinner. Offer to make the main course and have your guests provide the side dishes. Just as with serving only snacks, you can save time and money but still eat great food.
Make your own party decorations
Right now, a lot of craft stores have huge sales on holiday items. Buy some ribbon and holiday-themed trinkets to decorate your home. Use your ribbon to make homemade bows, and place them around your home. Make “gifts” by wrapping empty cereal boxes (or any boxes you have around) and set them on the food table. Highlight the entryway and the area you plan to host the party, and keep the decorations simple.
Just because you cut back your spending doesn’t mean you can’t buy great holiday gifts or throw an awesome party. Keeping a tight budget will keep your bills low come January, so give some of these money-saving ideas a try. This time of year should be more about spending time with family and friends, rather than fancy parties or expensive gifts, anyways.
Do you have any tricks to save money during the holiday season? Share your ideas with other Zing readers below.