Finances 101: Limiting Holiday Shopping

Hello Readers!  Most of you are probably going through the Holiday groans, as I call them, over having to continually fork out money for Holiday expenses.  There are the gifts for friends and family, charity donations, Secret Santas, White Elephant/Gift Exchanges, Parties, Potlucks, and on and on and on.  Some of you may even be experiencing the Holiday blues and stress of trying to stretch your limited budget to fit all of this.  So, here are a few ways to avoid the excess spending at this time of the year.

Plan and Budget and Stick to It!  This is the most important rule of them all.  Sit down with your significant other or spouse and calculate how much you can spend in total for the entire season.  Once you figure that out, start figuring out how much you can spend on everything.  How much will go to charity?  How much will go to Secret Santas/Holiday Parties/Gift Exchanges?  How much will go to gifts?  Once you figure those amounts out, always stick to that and avoid the excessive spending that comes from the holidays.

Prioritize.  We all want to participate in everything during the Holidays.  But it isn’t always realistic and it doesn’t always fit into your budget.  So, prioritize your involvement in events.  Be sure you give to charity and afford for your immediate family, but don’t feel obligated to participate in any more than that.  If you do want to participate at work in their gift exchange, then add it to your priorities.  I just ask that you always keep your charitable contributions and your immediate family in the top two positions of your list of priorities.

Get Creative.  You know, sometimes it isn’t always easy to squeeze money for gifts out of nothing, but there are ways to stick give a gift.  I love DIY gifts and ideas, and sometimes it can cost almost nothing if you use what you have on hand.  I’ll get to that in just a second.  But, if you’re getting ready for a White Elephant gift exchange and you don’t have one or the money for something, try creative approaches.  What about a DIY Apocalypse Survival Kit/Zombie Apocalypse Kit?  All you need is a box, some non-perishables like canned beans or veggies (typically found in your pantry), a dollar store can opener, and small essentials like a new toothbrush, toilet paper, bottle of water, etc.  Then, just write “Apocalypse Survival Kit” on the box and wrap it up!  Bonus: people will get a kick out it, especially after the events of the past year.  Another idea is to gift something DIY, which we will discuss below.

DIY Gifts.  This one is such an easy one to do, and I highly encourage it.  Growing up, my mom used to gift us kids a lot of DIY gifts that were practical and beautiful.  My first handmade quilt was from my mom when I was six, and every Christmas she made my sister and I matching nightgowns.  My grandmother always made candies for her neighbors and friends for Christmas, and my other grandmother always baked a tray of her wonderful homemade Cinnamon Rolls for friends and family.  Even my mom got into this by sewing table runners, placemats, and other household items for friends and family around the holidays.  My suggestion is to take a craft or skill you have an turn it into a gift for someone that you want to give to but don’t necessarily have the money to buy for.  While you may be great at crafts, try not to spend too much money on something for this.  Try to use what you have on hand first or find a craft that will require little extra in the way of supplies.  For me, this is typically cookies.  I usually have everything on hand for Lofthouse-like Sugar cookies or Chocolate Chip cookies, or I only need one item like powdered sugar or chocolate chips.  Either way, I try to do homemade gifts for friends and family that I may not have money to buy for.

Another trick with DIY gifts is to make a DIY care basket for someone.  Believe it or not, these can be pretty cheap to create and the contents can be quite worth it.  For example, this year we are doing a “Breakfast Basket” for every family we buy for (my sister and law and her husband, my sister and her family, my mom and grandma, and my in laws).  Instead of going to the large department store and getting a premade basket full of cheap products and over-marked in price, we decided to go to a specialty home store (Cost Plus World Market, my favorite!) to get the supplies for the same price but at a much higher quality.  By taking the time to put it together ourselves we can actually wind up paying extra for quality supplies and make the gift even better.  You can do this with a spa basket, a hot cocoa basket, or even a crafting/knitting basket.  The possibilities are endless!

Consider “family gifts”.  This may be a strange concept, but it can actually be a less expensive option and one that’s easier to figure out.  Instead of buying for each person individually, consider buying one larger gift for the entire family.  For example, around Mother’s Day this year, my sister’s family had a slew of family events.  Besides Mother’s Day, they had two birthdays and a Student of the Month celebration.  In other words, each member of their family had something to celebrate.  So rather than buying each person a separate gift, we did one family gift for all of them to enjoy.  We purchase tickets to a nearby Minor League baseball game, Cracker Jack, and peanuts, and we put it all in a tin basket for them as their family gift.  If you can’t figure out the theme, it was “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.

Similarly, we are doing the above baskets for Christmas this year, and in the past we have done a locals basket (goods made from local companies, etc).  Another great idea is “Movie/Game Night” in which you purchase a movie or family game, some theater box treats (can be found at the Dollar Store), soda or juice boxes, popcorn bags, and wrap it up.  The best part about something like this is that you can really stretch your dollars on gifts like this and they are sometimes even more appreciated than the standard individual gift.

Consider Alternative Budget Methods.  This last tip isn’t really something for right now but something to consider doing next year.  Starting in January, consider purchasing gift cards each paycheck until November and use those gift cards to do your holiday shopping.  You can plan to pay anywhere from $10 to $50 per paycheck, but just be sure to keep all of your cards in a safe place at home and stay on top of it.  At the end of the year you can have anywhere from $200 to $1,000 saved up for your holiday shopping.  I would recommend either purchasing gift cards to specific places or getting prepaid cards.  However, be sure to read the terms and agreements for your cards.  Some prepaid cards, for instance, take fees out if they aren’t used in a certain amount of time or they may get rid of the amount if not used within a certain time frame.

I hope that these ideas will help you figure out ways to budget in your holiday fun this year.

Until next time,

-BBM

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