Have you made your Christmas gifts shopping list? It’s still early, you may say, but that is what you say every year. You leave everything for last minute. When you finally go shopping, you can’t find the items on your list, so you have to buy something else, more expensive. You find items you don’t need on sale, and the price is so attractive that you buy those too. You want to look and feel your best, so you spend huge amounts on overpriced season clothing and home decorations you will only use once.
After the holiday rush, you wake up to the cruel reality of maxed credit cards and messed up budgets. It’s no wonder you’re always depressed in January! I used to be in your shoes, until I decided to regain control, and I did. You can do the same, and I’ll teach you how in the following lines.
The Key to Avoiding the Christmas Comedown – Start Early and Make Plans
Around Christmas, most of your money goes to gifts, apparel, home decorations, restaurant meals, and seasonal treats. You can reduce your expenses by 50% without sacrificing anything. The secret is to start early, like right now. The sooner you start, the more money you will save, and the better you will feel.
On one hand, Christmas will find you more relaxed, since you’ll have everything ready on time, and no messed up budgets to worry about. On the other hand, there will be no January “blue”, since you’ll be on track financially speaking, and you’ll have no reasons to feel guilty. In fact, why not use the money you saved to plan something for Valentine’s Day?
To make sure your early efforts pay off, consider starting with a sound plan. You need a complete shopping list, cost estimates, and solutions to cover the costs. How much money can you spend in November and December? The amount will have to cover all the expenses, so do your math.
Of course, you don’t know exactly what items you will buy, so add amounts instead. When you go shopping, avoid exceeding the respective amounts. Instead of thinking how to afford a particular item, focus on what you can buy with the money you have available. With enough time, a sound budget, and the following tricks, avoiding the Christmas comedown should be easy.
20 Ways to Save Money on Christmas
1. Choose a Day for Shopping Every Week
Perhaps you have one day when you get out earlier from work. Perhaps you prefer to go out and wander through stores on a Saturday morning or afternoon. You know your schedule better than anyone.
The bottom line is that you should have a couple of hours to chase sales, bargains, and relax. Knowing in advance when it happens gives you time to locate sales, find out about special offers, or get a friend to accompany you.
2. Only Take with You the Money You Can Afford to Spend
You can’t exhaust your budget on one shopping session, so only take the money you can afford to spend with you. You’d be surprised how many things you can buy with as little as $50 if you have time, patience, and you know where to look.
3. Check Which Stores Have Sales and Special Offers, and Visit Those
End-season sales are a perfect opportunity to find quality gifts at half price or buy 2-3 items at the price of 1. You can find blouses, scarves, dresses, and even lingerie at incredible prices. Some of them can surely turn into lovable gifts for some of your friends and family members.
4. Plan and Book Your Christmas Trips in Advance
If you’re traveling this holiday, it is best to buy any plane or train tickets in advance. The sooner you book your trips, the more money you can save. Also, you won’t have to worry about not being able to find last minute tickets.
5. Use 0% Interest and Cash Back Credit Cards
If you’re going to use your credit cards to pay for the items you buy, focus on those that have no interest and/or reward you for your spending. With the former type of credit cards, you can distribute payments over several months without additional costs. With the latter type, you will at least recover a percentage of the money you spend.
If you have several credit cards, compare their terms and conditions, and use the one with the most convenient ones. Also, when you go shopping, check if the store you visit offers any incentives for a specific type of credit cards. Some retailers have special deals and contests for clients who pay with a particular type of credit card.
6. Use Cashback Sites and the Retailers They List
If you prefer to do your shopping online, you should always do it through a cashback site. These are affiliate websites that receive a commission from the retailers and split that commission with their clients. Some give away as much as 70% of their commission, and they also offer sign-up bonuses.
With their help, you can usually save up to 10%, independently of other discounts and promotions the retailer has ongoing. The trick is to choose the best cashback sites, and read their terms and conditions carefully. In general, once you have created an account, all you need to do is access the store you want to shop at through the cashback website. The best cashback sites seem to be SwagBucks, eBates, Mr. Rebates, FatWallet, QuickRewards, Shop at Home, Pennyful, and Coupon Cactus.
7. Use Price Comparison Websites and Apps
Especially when you want to buy something more expensive, using price comparison websites can help you save a lot of money. A few examples of websites and apps you can try are ShopSavvy, PricePirates, Pricena, ScanLife, ShopMania, NexTag, Pronto, and CamelCamelCamel.
8. Find and Use Discount Codes
You can find them queering Google, installing the “Honey” plugin for Google Chrome, or visiting affiliate blogs. They rarely go higher than free shipping or 10$, but every buck you can save gets you closer to your budget goals.
9. Use Loyalty Cards, Points, and Discounts
Many stores will reward return clients with loyalty points, cards, and discounts. Pay attention to your retailer account, check out your email notifications, and keep your loyalty cards in your wallet. You can never know when they come in handy.
10. Break the Piggy Bank
Do you remember that jar or piggy bank where you store the change you receive on your shopping sprees? Now would be a good time to do something with that change. Those cents you didn’t feel like carrying around have surely added up to tens of dollars, maybe even more.
11. Switch Bank Accounts
Some banks offer cash incentives to tempt new clients. Others have special agreements with a long list of retailers and offer their clients discounts for credit or debit card payments. Now would be a good time to take them up on their offer, if their terms and conditions are acceptable, of course.
12. Find New Online Retailers, and Organize Your Orders to Obtain Higher Discounts
Some online retailers offer consistent bonuses at sign-up and free shipping or discounts for first-time orders, or values exceeding a certain threshold. If you already know such retailers, try signing up with your partner’s credentials to benefit from their offer again. You can also team up with a friend or relative to increase the value of your order and obtain discounts or free shipping.
13. Sell or Repurpose Unused Gifts
You surely have some sweater or kitchen set you’ve never used lying in your closet or cupboard. One of your friends and relatives would surely like to have it. If you disagree or you’re worried that the person who gave it to you may find out and get upset, you can always join sales or exchange groups on the social networks. This is a great way to put things to good use, gain space, and save money.
14. Check Review Websites
Websites like TipsHire can help you find interesting and valuable products and services you may have no idea existed. Think of compression garments for your parents, a tracking device for a friend who always loses his keys or wallet, or beauty products for a relative who’s constantly preoccupied with her looks! This is your chance to find out what they can do, whether they’re worth their price, and where to buy them from.
15. Save on Champagne
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want the winter holidays to go by without some fine drinks you wouldn’t dare to try throughout the year. Luckily, fine no longer means expensive, and we saw the proof at this year’s International Wine & Spirits competition, when Lidl’s $10 Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc, received the “Silver Outstanding” award, being named one of the best sparkling wines in the world.
If you don’t have any unopened bottles of wine received as gifts, do your research on specialty websites, and your shopping in supermarkets, or at the online retailers offering the best deals. You’ll eventually find the offer that lets you consent yourself without going bankrupt.
16. Use Flash Sales Websites
It is a great way to find flash sales and buy astonishing gifts at bargain prices. Why settle for cheap stuff, when you can buy designer creations at bargain prices? Just act fast when you receive notifications, to make sure the items you want don’t go out of stock. The best-rated flash sale platforms seem to be Slick Deals, Deal News, Retail Me Not, and Ben’s Bargains.
17. Don’t Miss out on Black Friday Deals
Most retailers drop their prices significantly on Black Friday. This is your chance to buy the things you need and save up to 80%. Just focus on the things you need, and don’t exhaust your budget on items you can do without, simply because they’re on sale.
18. Make Meaningful but Affordable Gifts
You don’t have to spend a fortune to show your loved ones that you care. A frame featuring one of their best photos, scented candles, a personalized mug, some homemade cookies or a box of their favorite chocolates can bring you closer to them than many expensive gifts. It is the thought that counts, not the price.
19. Get Cooking
I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons why I choose to go out around the holidays is because I don’t have time to cook. Otherwise, I prefer the comfort and intimacy of my home. Ever since we’ve had our daughters, going out on Christmas became an impossible dream, since we could never find a babysitter. We don’t like to order in either, as our favorite foods are quite difficult to find in local restaurants, and we’re struggling to make sure our daughters eat only healthy food. So we cook.
You’d be surprised how many easy and delicious recipes are out there. You can cook larger quantities and various dishes in advance and freeze a few servings. When the moment comes, you just warm them up in the microwave and serve them. I do this with sweets, meats, pizza dough, and broths all the time. Without even trying, I’ve managed to reduce our food-related expenses considerably, and you can, too.
20. Focus on What You Have and on Necessities
You want to look your best at every party, but are you sure you can’t find something to wear in your closet? Do you really need that expensive watch or those designer shoes? If you decide you have to buy them, at least make sure you can wear them again, on as many occasions as possible.
I was just about to order myself a fancy and expensive dress for a wedding we’re going to this weekend. Just before hitting the order button, I saw another dress at half the price of the first one, a very flexible model I could wear both on special occasions and at the office. Not only did I save a lot of money, but I also got a new work outfit.
It’s easy to overspend when you see ads everywhere you look, and, somehow, everyone around you seems to be doing better financially speaking. You want to keep up, but, if your budget doesn’t allow it, don’t force it.
You will be paying the consequences of those couple of hours of feeling fashionable in a new dress or dining in a fancy restaurant for months to come, if you don’t pay attention, so think twice before every acquisition. I bet you have quite a few lovely outfits and accessories in your wardrobe.
Drawing the Line
You want an unforgettable Christmas and New Year, and you’re ready to spend for that. Things get tricky when you start spending money you don’t have. Is it worth it to spend a fortune during the holidays, and live on an austerity budget for months afterwards?
My advice is that you plan and monitor your expenses carefully and focus on the people you love and the things you already have. If you don’t overspend this holiday season, you may be able to turn every following weekend into a celebration or enjoy an amazing Valentine’s Day.
The final decision is all yours. Just check out the tips above, and feel free to share your experience with them, and any tips or ideas of your own. I hope you’ll be able to avoid the Christmas comedown this year, or at least make it worth it. Take care!