It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but also the most stressful! That’s right, I’m obviously talking about Christmas. Yes, I very well do know what month it is, but it’s never too early to start planning ahead. In fact, I like to get my act together 2 to 3 months in advance. Hence, the reason for this post. Christmas talk always comes early in my house, and for good reason. I’ve always been a huge plan in advance type of girl, and now being a parent has taken that into overdrive. My littles are still young, so I luckily don’t have the headache of hunting for Christmas list “must haves” that happen to land on every child’s wish list that year, but we all know just how busy the holiday season can get in general. I hate fighting other people, especially other parents for a parking space, aisle space, the last items on the shelves; it gets ridiculous! If I can save myself a little bit of headache, and a little bit (or a lot) of money, then of course I’ll jump at the chance to do that. So, here is my list of things that I’ve tried, and things that help me mentally and financially get ready for the holiday chaos.
• Saving VS Borrowing
Let’s start here by saying that you should NOT go broke for Christmas. Don’t let the season of giving overwhelm you, and have you giving too much of what you don’t have. Christmas should be saved and planned for, ensuring that you have a designated budget just for enjoying your holiday season. Start early, set your savings goal, and try your best to stick to it!
• Make a list of who you’re buying for
I’m big on giving, especially when I’m in the holiday spirit. It’s important that you know in advance who you plan to buy for this year. Maybe in your home you only buy for close family (Spouse, Children) or maybe you also do extended family (Spouse, Children, Parents, Nieces and Nephews) Maybe you also go so far as to join in on secret Santa at the office, and other Christmas gift exchanges, and all of this needs to be planned for. KNOW who you’re purchasing for this year to help you plan accordingly.
• Create a budget
One of the most crucial parts of not overspending with anything, is creating an allocated budget for everything. Once you decide who you plan to purchase gifts for, it’s time to start thinking about just how much you want to spend on gifts. It’s better to do this before getting everyone’s Christmas wish list, because it will be based on what you want to spend, and not what you feel like you have to spend. Plan for what you can afford, and not for what you desire. On average, your largest purchases go to your close family, but if you normally partake in giving outside of close family, you should also plan a budget for those gifts as well.
Once you’ve found a magic number to reach for your larger purchases, save towards reaching those goals first. Save weekly, or biweekly (Whatever fits you personally) and remember to be consistent. When you’ve taken care of saving for the priority of your budget, you should then start putting aside money for your extra gifts (teacher gifts for your kids, classroom goodies) or gift exchanges, and it also gives you a cushion if you do decide to splurge on something special for someone. At least you’ll know you aren’t cutting into your budget from some of your other household finances. As time goes on, and you’re weeks closer to really getting in the Christmas spirit (obviously not in the month of September) once you start getting a better view of what all you’ll be wrapping up, you should start planning what you’ll be spending on bows, wrapping paper, gift wrapping services, or gift bags because this too is an expense that should be budgeted for.
• Purge your old belongings
This can be done however far in advance you’d prefer, but when you’re getting into the mode of giving new, why not purge the old first. This can be useful to do for many reasons. I like to do it to actually make room for new things to come into our home, to possibly find things to sell for some extra money, and to also be able to give to those in need. Out with the old, and in with the new! Throw away any old and broken toys or damaged clothes, and donate any toys or clothing in decent condition. It is fun to get and give shiny new things for Christmas, but it’s important to remember that it’s not all of what Christmas is about. Spread some holiday cheer and give to someone in need.
• Buy gift cards
Buying small gift cards (But GOOD gift cards) is also a good way to save yourself some headache when it comes to saving and giving. I’ve found it to be a cool way to “save” a portion (a small portion) of my Christmas budget, because I’m a lot less likely to dip into my gift card savings. When it’s finally time to start shopping, you can use your gift cards that you purchased to places like Target, Walmart, or any of your local department stores to either purchase actual gifts and wrapping paper, or to give the gift cards as a gifts themselves. Just make sure to keep track of their totals by either buying gift card holders to write on, or adding your gift cards to envelopes and labeling them for better organization.
• Utilize Rebates and Online Membership Offers
My faaavorite way to save money and make money to use for Christmas shopping, is utilizing rebate apps and online membership offers. Ebates is great for saving money on your online purchases, and we all know that online shopping can possible be more convenient than in store shopping during the holiday season. I also use Shopkicks for an easy way to basically get free money towards store gift cards. It saves me a ton throughout the year, but right about now I like to save up my points for larger gift cards. How it works is, you basically receive “kicks” for simply walking into the store, or making purchases that you would be making anyway. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can also use my code (MALL659750) to earn yourself 250 easy kicks to get started! For my wrapping paper and stocking stuffer gifts, I normally use my accumulated savings catcher money. If you’re a Walmart shopper and you haven’t gotten hip to savings catcher, you’re completely missing out. Just shop how you normally would, and remember to scan your receipt when you’re done. If another local store has lower prices on any of the items you’ve purchased, you receive the difference to your savings catcher app, and redeem your money through Walmart pay, or a Bluebird card (My personal preference)
• Don’t fall for black Friday and Cyber Monday “Deals”
Black Friday is great, BUT, not every deal will be a deal on black Friday. It’s important to be strategic with your purchasing, and really track the average pricing of the items you plan to buy. Just because it has a red tag, doesn’t mean it’s really a red tag deal. I’ve seen people feel like they have to splurge and spend all of their money on that particular day, and in reality they only save about $10.
• Utilize free shipping
Last but certainly not least, when you plan to do online shopping, it’s beneficial to make larger purchases to qualify for free shipping. Also, if you aren’t already an Amazon Prime member, holiday time is the BEST time to invest in a membership. Sometimes it’s also possible to receive discounts on prime memberships that are worth looking into.