There’s a subsection of the population who absolutely dread the holiday season. For many lucky people, the final months of the year give rise to yuletide joy, and offer chances for families and friends to reflect on the previous year, the upcoming, and what they mean within the greater context of their lives. However, Chanukah celebrations, Christmas revelry, and Kwanzaa commemorations are often marred for those who feel the pressures of financial stress. They dread the obligatory present shopping and gift giving.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re one of these people, know that there are practical, easy-to-implement ways to save money and decrease the amount you spend this holiday season. All that’s required is a little bit of forethought, planning, and a careful evaluation of your resources.
What does the “spirit of the holidays” really mean, anyway? Does it mean mandatory spending on commercial items in order to validate ongoing relationships, or does it mean a celebration of our shared humanity, which should require nothing more than an appreciative gesture? If you fall into the second category, a DIY gift might be best option for you.
There’s no better way to celebrate the unique relationship you have with another than by creating a unique gift. If you’re having trouble thinking of the perfect gift, do some research and look up ways other people have taken full advantage of this free-to-inexpensive option.
Holiday Spending Accounts
If you’re concerned about holiday spending, consider getting into contact with your bank or credit union to inquire about holiday spending accounts. It’s offered at many banks, and doesn’t typically require a minimum balance and allows you to set aside money throughout the year instead of worrying about draining your savings all at once.
If, for example, I lived in the New England area, I would contact a NH credit union and ask a representative about the typical interest rates offered on these accounts. Whatever amount you place in these special holdings can actually grow considerably over time.
Coupons and Store Offers
You’ve seen the commercials. During the holiday season, businesses go crazy by undercutting one another and trying their best to offer the best deal possible. This is capitalism at its best—healthy competition between business that makes (and saves) everyone money.
Websites like RetailMeNot offer coupon options for countless stores and brands, and if you spend some time perusing their pages you’ll eventually come across something applicable to your buying needs. Take advantages of the deals offered by online retailers and try to compound them with coupons that you find on the Internet. With this tactic you can find deals on items that might otherwise be out of your spending range.
Create a Budget Map
This is an incredibly useful step, especially if you aren’t going to go the DIY gift route. In order to know exactly how much you’re able to reasonably spend during this holiday season, you need to get a sense the funds you have available.
While the process of evaluating your financial situation should be conducted regularly, the holiday season is a great time to kick off the habit. Run a check on your month-to-month spending and see where your money is going, and use those observations to predict how much you would have spent during the holiday season prior to holiday spending. How much money would you have had leftover? Has your car loan been unexpectedly draining your resources?
Referring again to your spending patters, figure out how much you typically spend on non-essentials. Use that figure to calculate how much you can reasonably spend on gifts.
Everyone Chips In!
If the people you feel obligated (or excited) to spend money on are all within the same group, consider options like Secret Santa, or potlucks instead of solo-hosted dinners, to save some extra cash.
Secret Santa is a game in which each member of a group is anonymously assigned another member of that group, and has to get that person a gift. It’s fun, adds healthy drama to your holiday season, and drastically reduces the amount of gifts you need to buy.