Photo c/o FutUndBeidl on Flickr
Have I beat this topic to death yet? No? Great! Because today we’re going to talk about ways to save money on holiday gifts. You know I’m doing the $100 holiday challenge which means this holiday I’m only spending $100 on gifts. But how?! Well, I’m employing all of the strategies I’m sharing today and I’m part elf. Just kidding. Here goes…
- Set a limit!
A budget for holiday gifts is essential. Without a budget and a strict limit, it’s way too simple to overspend or just buy something because it’s “easy.” I like to spend cash only when I’m holiday shopping, that way I know exactly how much I have left to spend without having to do much math.
- Make a list and check it twice!
I sound like I live at the North Pole here, but making a list is important in the money saving process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve totally spaced and forgot to buy someone a gift, then I’ll have to run out the night before their holiday party (or whatever) and pick up something I did not plan to buy. Bonus tip: If you have room, it’s a good idea to pick up a few extra inexpensive and impersonal gifts like nice candies or wine. You never know when you’re going to need an extra gift.
- Use your points or promotions
Do you have credit cards with points or promotions? This is the time to use them. In many cases you can cash in those points for products or even transfer those points to someone else. For my birthday last year, my in-laws let me use their points to pick out whatever I wanted from their credit card’s product catalog. I picked out a gift card for gasoline and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
If you’ve signed up for something like Swag Bucks this would also be the time to use those. If you aren’t hip to Swag Bucks, it’s an online program where you earn Swag Bucks (or redeemable points) for your online activity.
Ya’ll know I’m not into grocery coupons. If I have a coupon for food, I’ll use it, but I don’t go out of my way looking for food coupons. Since the holidays only happen once a year, I will coupon for gifts. A couple of my favorite places to shop are Kohl’s and JC Penny. Both often offer $10 off coupons and in some cases will let you combine coupons and offers. I always check Retail Me Not and the local circular before I go shopping.
- Don’t spend your hard-earned money on wrapping
It’s easy to forget about actually making the presents look presentable (puns!) when your so focused on sticking within your holiday budget. But gift wrap costs can add up. Challenge yourself to spend as little money as possible on wrapping. I love to wrap presents in brown paper. It’s classic! You can purchase a whole roll at a dollar store and tie presents up with colorful yarn or string. If you want to get extra creative, you could stamp or draw on the paper first. And brown paper works for all seasons, holidays and special occasions! Score!
- If you’re crafty, make a gift (but do the math first!)
Crafting a gift can save you big bucks in some cases. But make sure you do the math first. It isn’t always cheaper to craft gifts. If you’re an avid crafter it might be cheaper to make the gift, but if you’re a supply-less Sally, it might be cheaper to buy a gift. The one time crafting has really saved me money is when I make gifts in batches. For example, you could buy the supplies to make beeswax candles for everyone on your list. (Check out all the gifts I made last year here.)
- If you’re a good cook, make a gift (again, do the math!)
Usually cooking supplies are cheaper than crafting supplies, but it still might be cheaper (and easier, and a time saver) to just buy a pack of cookies and place them into pretty jars. Let’s get real, folks.
- Shop early!
If you are reading this, stop what you’re doing and start shopping now! Just kidding, keep reading this, but then make your list, check for coupons and go shopping. Yes, stores offer more deals around the holidays, but there’s too much pressure to shop under a tight deadline. You’ll be tempted to grab whatever and overspend. I know a few people who even shop year-round for Christmas, that way there is no pressure and they spread out their spending over many months.
- Online offers
I know that having a smart phone is a total luxury, but it helps me save money too! Whenever I’m about to buy something, I’ll do a quick check on my phone to see if I can find it cheaper online. If I can, I’ll either ask the store if it does price matching or I’ll put it back on the shelf and order it online. Ain’t technology grand?!
- Useful presents
Sometimes useful presents are the best. Useful presents don’t have to be the latest kitchen gizmo either. When I was a poor grad student, I told my mom I really didn’t need anything. So instead of going out and buying another thing I didn’t need, she went out and bought me groceries and then wrapped them. It was so nice to get boxes of cereal, canned goods and things I needed, but didn’t have to pay for!
- Give your time
Honestly, I would much rather someone give me their time than any gift out there. Please come over to my house and help me do one of those crazy “Make 56 freezer meals!” things. Please come over to my house and help me clean out my closet (or just talk to me while I do it!) Imagine how nice it would be to give the gift of clean floors to a new mom or the gift of clean gutters to your elderly parents. Truly, time is the greatest gift.
- No-gift pacts
This isn’t for the faint of heart and no, it’s not really “fun” either, but here’s a secret: you don’t have to give a gift to everyone. I know, I know, it’s a nice gesture! It’s the thought that counts and all that jazz, but for some people gift-giving can truly be a financial burden. If you think that gifts will be a financial burden on yourself or on your friends and family, I suggest rationally discussing no-gift packs. And make it clear that no judgments will be made on either behalf.
My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for most holidays. We have a pact and we’d much rather save the money to go on a trip or to eventually buy a house. An alternative to a no-gift pack, if you have a large family, could be a White Elephant party or a Secret Santa gift-giving scheme.
Remember, it’s all about staying sane this holiday season and not ending the year in budgetary regret!
How do you save money on holiday gifts? Let me know in the comments!