By Melissa Uhles
Wouldn’t you like to save money and stress by sticking to a budget with your holiday shopping? I’m in the same boat. I was shocked when I read that, according to the American Research Group, American’s spend over $900 on holiday gifts. That’s a big chunk of change.
If you need to make sure you spend less or assure yourself you won’t spend more than $900, budget is key.
Following are my tips for holiday shopping on a budget. So read on before you pull out your wallet to pay for that dancing snowman.
Have a Money Meeting
If you have a partner or spouse, it’s good to discuss how much money you have and what you want to spend on gifts. It’s important to come to an agreement on this issue. I’ll be honest, I’m the cheapskate in our house. After some very lean years in my twenties, it’s a hard habit to break. My husband usually coaxes me into spending a little more but we agree not to accrue any debt and settle on an amount per person that we can afford with what we’ve saved.
One thing that might help you with your money meeting is to use our Holiday Budget Planner. It will keep you stay within your budget.
Make a Budgeted List
Create a list of every person you plan to buy for. Next to their name write the dollar amount you plan to spend. As you shop, write what you actually spent next to it. Maybe you’ll spend less because you got something on sale or with a coupon.
If you need something small to carry in your purse and keep your list on, we designed a cute pocket journal that will make it easy.
To make it easier to create a budget, get your FREE Holiday Shopping Budget Planner. This way you won't break the bank this holiday season. CLICK HERE.
Start Shopping Early
Legend has it, some people start Christmas shopping as early as July. I admire this commitment. It means you are spending a little extra money each month instead of a huge gob of it in December or worse, using credit cards and paying off even more in interest over the course of the year.
This dovetails with the last point. Starting early, will give you time to do research and watch for sales on items you’d like to purchase. For example, my husband has me watching the site Woot for deals on cell phones because he knows I need a new one and is convinced we’ll find it cheaper there than at the T-mobile store. Groupon and other daily deal sites are also worth checking out. Spending some time looking online and also in real brick and mortar stores will help you find the most bang for your buck.
Skip Black Friday
This day of deals is kind of a marketing sham. You can find better prices on most things by just shopping much earlier in the year. On Black Friday, there are a few good deals that disappear by 5AM but once you’re in the store you might be throwing stuff in your cart to make it worth your while. It’s tempting to buy things that seem cheap even if you don’t need them and they won’t work for anyone on your list.
I prefer checking out Cyber Monday on Amazon because it can be done from the comfort of my own home without the pressure cooker competition of being in a store. If spending money in the local economy is important to you, Small Business Saturday might be a good choice.
This is good proof of what you actually spent and can help you fill out your budgeted list and update it.
Also, when it comes to kids, it’s good to keep receipts or even include a gift receipt. My son loves Legos, which means he’s gotten duplicates of the same set, which isn’t a big deal but now when I give something like that, I try and keep the receipt.
Suggest a Name Draw
For extended family, work colleagues or friends, this can be a great way to save a lot of money. If you have ten extended family members and you all draw one name and set a spending limit of $50, that is less than buying a $10 item for all ten people.
This is something my husband’s family has done in the past because the extended family is so enormous that gift giving could get wildly expensive otherwise.
Books make great gifts because they are inexpensive and can be passed on after they’ve been read. I just went to Barnes and Noble to start my shopping. I admit, holding books in my hand makes me giddy. Amazon also has a good selection of well priced books. I also like to check out the independent bookstores like Powell’s, here in Oregon. In addition, the library sometimes has sales on used books and that’s an inexpensive way to purchase stocking stuffers for the kiddos.
Need some book recommendations? I made a list of Books to Boost Girl Power that you might wanna check out. And if you need an inexpensive gift for a writer friend, How to Make a Living as a Writer has helpful information for those who want to make money as an author, blogger or freelance writer. If that doesn’t fit the bill, I wrote a post of some other Great Gifts for Writers.
Give Gift Cards
Sadly, not everyone likes to read. Sometimes the best gift for someone is a gift card. For example, I get my kiddo’s teacher a Starbuck's gift card because even if you only spend $5, it is enough for the teacher to grab a coffee and a snack. I once Googled what gifts teachers like and they all seemed to be a fan of a nice handwritten note from a student or a gift card.
I know someone who makes her homemade banana bread as a gift for her family members. Another friend of mine made jars with dry contents for soups. And one mom I know makes amazing homemade soaps. One caveat to remember is just because it’s homemade doesn’t mean it’s cheap and you have to think about how much your time is worth. I’m not quite this crafty but I do love to bake and I have made those Mason jar gifts with hot cocoa or cookie mix. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest, of course.
Shop at The Dollar Store
When I was younger and super strapped for cash, sometimes I had to buy for everyone on my list at the dollar store. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I still love that store. It has cheap wrapping paper, gift bags, books, etc. You could buy one of their stockings and load it with a box of hot cocoa and a kid’s craft kit for your niece, for example.
We live in consumerist culture, there is no doubt about it. And the holidays have an emotional pull that make it hard to resist showering the ones we love with gifts, especially our kids. But I believe one of the most valuable things we can teach them is how to manage money. And kids learn by example. Living with the disappointed look on your kid’s face or the judgement of others is easier than living with crippling debt.
On a lighter note, you got this! Happy Holidays and may the force be with you as you conquer your holiday shopping.
To make it easier to not overspend, get your FREE Holiday Shopping Budget Planner. This way you won't break the bank this holiday season. CLICK HERE.
How do you stay on a budget over the holidays? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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