I’m not sure what your take is on the current year, but mine is that it is going by entirely way too fast. The school year is already coming to an end and I swear it feels like the year just began! While I am like many of you who are beginning to focus on the upcoming summer months, I am also beginning to look even further and plan for the holidays.
Yeah, I know, it may seem a little crazy to start my holiday planning this far in advance, but I tell you what, when you start planning six to eight months in advance, the ability to save money is greater. An additional benefit is experiencing a lower stress level when the holidays do arrive. Below are a few tips I have for how you can save on the holidays this year.
1. Start buying gifts now. One of the easiest ways to ease the financial burden of the holidays is to spread the expenses out throughout the year. If you have a lot of extended family and friends that you buy Christmas gifts for, then start watching the sale flyers for your favorite stores. When you see something that you know one of people on your gift list would like, go ahead and buy it. Sure, you will have to store it but you’ve saved money and you have one less gift to buy. Therefore, it’s worth it!
2. Set money aside every pay period. Another great way to make sure you are financially ready for the holidays is by setting money aside each pay period. For example, I take out $50-$100 of every paycheck and put aside in a fund (within my budget book) labeled “Christmas.” Regardless of what the amount is that you can afford to set aside, the cool thing is that these bi-weekly deposits add up pretty quick. I’ve actually been doing this for several years now and it has worked really well for my family and I. In fact, because I know that I have the money set aside when it’s time to start buying holiday gifts, I am able to have fun shopping because I’m not worried about accumulating a lot of credit card debt or running my bank account dry buying gifts. This is probably the one tip that can save you the most stress during the holiday season, if you follow it.
3. Buy stamps for holiday cards several months in advance. This one may sound a little silly, but have you ever added up just how many Christmas cards you actually mail out? I know a lot of people who have done away with mailing actual cards out for the holidays and opt for e-cards instead, but I personally feel like receiving a card in the mail is more personal. Anyways, to ensure I’m not caught off guard by the cost of stamps for my Christmas cards, I purchase forever stamps several months before Christmas and store them until the holidays roll around. I do still mail some of my bills so I make sure to keep the “Christmas” stamps in a separate place so I’m not tempted to use them. An additional benefit to this is that a Forever stamp is good forever so if the cost of stamps goes up after the time you bought the Forever stamps, you will be saving even more money when it’s time to mail those cards out!
4. Shop online. Believe it or not, there are a lot of great deals to be found online. While it does take time to browse the online deals at various stores, it can definitely pay off. An easy way to stay up-to-date on the online sales is to create a special email that you use only for receiving newsletters from your favorite stores and check this email once a day or once every other day. It makes it easy as you shouldn’t be receiving any mail in this account other than the stores’ flyers that you’ve signed up to receive. And again, don’t be afraid to order early. If there is a sale going on for an item you know will make the perfect Christmas gift for someone, then order it and cross the person off your list!
5. Be frugal when buying holiday décor. The marketing teams at department stores are comprised of very intelligent people. They know how to decorate a store for the holidays with their products. When customers come in to shop they notice the décor and the various items that have been used for the décor and marketing teams know this translates into purchases. The issue is that most of these items are not going to be on sale and they’re overpriced anyways. Therefore, take the time to shop for your holiday décor items at discount stores such as Ross, TJ Maxx, Dollar General, etc., as well as, at garages sales. You never know what you will find at these places and when you get the items home and set up with the rest of your holiday décor no one will know that you didn’t pay full price for these items.
Believe it or not, the majority of stores make most of their profits for the year during the holiday months. The holidays are big business in America (and elsewhere), but that doesn’t mean you have to go into debt at this time of year!