When the holidays roll around, you may be looking forward to the decorations, the gifting and the hot chocolate. But what about your budget? The average American spends more than $900 during the holiday season. That doesn’t include the cost of Thanksgiving! If you aren’t hosting, you are likely traveling for the holidays, and domestic airline tickets can range from $300 to $400 or more, depending on when you book.
That’s a significant amount of extra cash to come up with — especially if you wait too long to start saving. Here are six things you can do to slash your holiday budget — while still keeping your holiday cheer.
Consider Nonmonetary Gifts
In an effort to cut expenses this December, consider giving others nonmonetary gifts. Can you give the gift of your time? Perhaps offer to watch your nieces or nephews so your sibling can enjoy a date night. Or get in touch with your crafty side and DIY your own gifts. Assess who you are giving a gift to and what they would truly value. Sometimes, the best gifts aren’t things.
Review Your List
Often, we get in the habit of giving gifts to the same people year after year just because it’s holiday time, but in reality, we don’t maintain a close relationship with them during the rest of the year. Take some time to assess your shopping list and cut it down, if possible.
Also, consider drawing names. This is especially helpful for large families or groups of friends. Instead of giving every single person a gift, play Secret Santa and pick names. This will help you rein in the spending and save money.
The same goes for your invite list for Thanksgiving. You don’t need to invite every distant relative and casual neighbor. Keep it close, and you may even end up having a better time with a small, intimate group.
Focus on the Kids
The holidays are magical, especially for children. Save money by focusing on the kids instead of every adult in your life. Choose affordable gifts for each day of Hanukkah, or grab small, unique stocking stuffers, handpicked for each of your little ones.
Or, let them make their own table settings or centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table, which will save you money in the long run. Another option? Forgo traveling for Thanksgiving this year and spend it with just your spouse and the kids — or host a potluck “Friendsgiving.”
Give Gifts People Actually Want
Don’t buy gifts just to say you did. Almost three-quarters of Americans admit they don’t like the gifts they are given. Instead, use your money wisely and purchase things people actually want. If you are unsure what to buy some people on your list, ask their spouses or close friends what they may like.
Also, before you buy anything, check the internet for coupons. Use sale sites like RetailMeNot to find coupon codes or EBates to earn cash back on your purchases. Do your homework and make those dollars count.
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Shopping without a budget is a recipe for disaster, whether it’s for holiday gifts or your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s easy to justify expensive purchases in the moment. But, you’ll regret it come January when your credit card statement is unreasonably high. Before you set out on your shopping spree, have the following set in stone: Set a budget and stick to it.
- What is your total budget for the Thanksgiving meal? What about your travel?
- Who is on your gift list?
- How much are you spending per person?
- What’s your total gift budget?
Knowing these numbers in advance will help you stick to your budget when you’re shopping.
But remember: Holiday costs don’t stop at gifts. When creating your budget, make sure to include extra holiday items, like wrapping paper, holiday parties, tasty treats, décor, winter activities and other miscellaneous expenses.
Start Saving Now
Don’t wait until “Elf” is on TV to start taking action! Implement these simple tips to save a little bit more each month to avoid financial stress later:
- Put aside a portion of each paycheck.
- Take advantage of Black Friday sales.
- Download money-saving apps and monitor prices.
- Cut monthly expenses and spending from now until January.
- Shop with the cash you’ve saved and keep your credit card at home.
- Cash in credit card reward points.