It’s the most wonderful time of year for retailers. As soon as we clear our Thanksgiving plates the race begins to gather gifts for all our family and friends.
During the year, I do a pretty good job of being practical with my purchases. But something about the holidays makes even the most frugal shopper push his or her limits.
Add kids to the equation–and the teacher gifts, holiday parties and the “Can I ask Santa for that??” demands–and you can easily end up with a pile of debt by New Year’s Day.
Family Circle magazine has some good tips on how to stay within your budget this season. First step, create a budget. Here were a few of my favorite tips from the article:
- Don’t procrastinate. I love online shopping. It means I don’t have to drag three kids to a store. But if you plan to make many online purchases, you can’t wait until the last minute. You hate to find the perfect gift for your in-laws and then realize you have pay $25 in express shipping to get it here on time.
- Use cash. You’ll spend more if you use credit cards than if you carry cash. When it’s gone, you’re done!
- You don’t have to spend the same on each kid. That’s a shocking thought for most parents. Even though my brother and I are in our 30s, my mom still takes painstaking steps to make sure the gifts for us (and our spouses) are equitable. I went through the same exercise for my toddlers last year, even down to counting the items in their stockings–something they’d never do themselves. The article suggests that parents worry about it a lot more than kids. And as long as everyone gets things that work for them, who cares?
- Buy in bulk. This was a great tip that I’d never thought of. The small gifts are the ones that really add up during the holidays. You need a little something for your child’s teacher, your hair stylist, the neighbors. Rather than buying lots of individual gifts, the article suggests looking for items in groups. Fill a set of ceramic bowls with baked goods or buy a set of candles and split it among teachers.
- Get crafty. My sister-in-law is so good about making gifts for everyone. I know it takes her hours longer than it would to buy something at the mall, but that’s what makes it so special. Mary Hunt, author of “Debt-Proof the Holidays,” told Family Circle editors, “In surveys we ask people if they prefer purchased gifts or something homemade, and homemade always comes out ahead.”
What are your tips for saving cash and sticking to a budget during the holidays?