I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the holidays become more overwhelming every year. I’m not sure why, but they seem to sneak up faster and faster, and some stores start advertising for Christmas at the end of summer which is maddening.
If you’re not getting ahead of the rush, what should be a pleasant time to make family memories can easily turn into a panicky, store-frenzied, rage-fest.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Follow this advice to find your zen-like happy place when it comes to shopping during the holidays and you will feel like those ads of people in a towel with hot rocks on their backs. Okay, maybe not that relaxed, but I guarantee following this advice will help you find a smidgen of peace when it comes to seasonal gifting.
1. Create a Budget
Hopefully, you have already saved a little each month to plan for the end of year festivities. We have a separate checking account for our Christmas fund and put around $100.00 a month into that to be able to give nice gifts to our family each year. Your budget could be greater or smaller, the important thing is it’s not sneaking up on you and coming as a huge debt you weren’t expecting. Plan ahead and then spend accordingly as you are able to with that budget restricting you from going over your allotment.
2. Create a List
Using Excel or your favorite spreadsheet program, put down each person you will spend money on, including the people you tip yearly like the mailman & trash collectors. We use a column to put the amount of money we are willing to go up to for that person based on our budget. Then keep an “actual” column to make sure you are staying close to the projected budget amount as you shop.
3. Large Families Should Discuss a Holiday Strategy
If you have a big family you might be looking at a huge credit card bill come January if you are expected to buy for everyone. Chances are your family will want to save money as well, so discuss the idea of doing a White Elephant exchange or doing a Secret Santa where you draw names and only buy for that person. Or, set an agreed upon limit (i.e., no one spends over $20.00), so that you don’t feel bad if you didn’t spend as much as someone else in your family did.
4. Make Your Own Gifts
Considering it is the thought that truly counts, nothing says, “I care”, more than a hand-made gift. This could be anything from home-made cookies, chocolates, or if you are crafty it might include something sewn or crocheted. These gifts are usually the best received and can be made inexpensively. All it takes is time. Search on Pinterest for ideas and you will find tons of them.
5. Shop Sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, & Others
Take advantage of coupons and special event pricing. Just be careful and do your homework. Don’t be fooled by Black Friday deals that aren’t truly deals. Sometimes I’ve noticed items that were “on sale” for Black Friday are actually a better deal during non-sale times. Some stores will mark things up just to give you what seems to be a great deal. If you can get an item that’s marked down WITH a coupon, you can get some super discounts, like at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, where they send out a 20% coupon that can be used in addition to the sale price.
6. Online Deals
Do some comparison shopping to find great online deals. Be careful of hidden charges like shipping, many companies will offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount. Checkout sites like Woot or Slick Deals for some unbeatable bargains. Amazon runs a Deal Page where you can find their best bargains, which change daily.
7. Avoid Little Items That Add Up Quickly
Small stocking stuffer gifts, like socks, for everyone in the family in addition to a larger gift can add up quickly. Socks alone can be an extra $100.00 if you give around ten pair out. Make sure you’re keeping track of and budgeting for those smaller items too. The best way to buy smaller items is to collect them throughout the year so that it doesn’t hit you as one giant charge.
8. Get free Gift Cards by taking Surveys
Sites like Survey Junkie will payout in Gift Cards to places like Target, Amazon, or PayPal. You can earn up to around $18.00 an hour if you only take the higher paying surveys.
9. Get Discounted Gift Cards
When people don’t want a gift card to a certain place they can resell these for a discounted amount and get cash. Sites like GiftCardGranny locates discounted gift cards, so it shows you the best Gift Card Deals for the specific stores you might be interested in. Sometimes you can get a gift card for half price, i.e., a $100.00 card for $50.00. This is a great way to stretch your shopping budget but you need to act early on it as a lot of the cards will run out as you get closer to Christmas.
10. Pass on Warranties or Find Cheap Ones
Warranties are typically an unnecessary up-sell, but I have used them before with electronics that broke a few years in (specifically, an Xbox). In that case the $10.00 extra I spent for the warranty was worth it as the Xbox was over $300.00. However, the price of the warranty these days can be ridiculous. Amazon seems to have fair prices for warranties, but make sure you understand how long the manufacturer warranty runs. If it is a 2 year manufacturer warranty and you buy a 2 year warranty you are probably wasting your money since one was included (even though they will tell you it covers MORE). Consider if there is any actual value in the additional charge.
Following these tips, you should be off to a well-planned and less stressful end of year celebration.