I believe that an argument can be made for Christmas being, hands down, the most expensive time of year.
It is dangerous out there, people! Everywhere I turn, there are adorable, festive shelves decked with things I think "I NEED!" but don't really. I did some Christmas shopping with my mom today, and actually held my hands up to my face to give myself tunnel vision in some of my favorite stores. We developed a helpful warning when things got especially cute: "Look away! Cute and unnecessary approaching!" As I mentioned in Blogmas Day 3, buying gifts is one of my favorite things to do, and I truly love the hustle and bustle of malls and stores at Christmas time. This presents a bit of a situation for me, as I am also, very much on a budget. Being on a budget, for the record, is something Reed and I are all about. I could go on quite a long rant about how much money we have saved using a cash-only budget, but I'll spare you the the lengthy paragraphs filled with stats and numbers.
But I will tell you this: living by a budget has set us free.
It is has freed us from the pressure to do more and have more than we need to or can. It has given us the power to save and spend without guilt, fear, or worry. And it has allowed for extravagant and simple moments of generosity. Having a budget is the only way, as newlyweds, that we can live in the Bay Area, do ministry full-time, take trips, go on dates, and take on Christmas! I'm so grateful for our budget, and that with forward thinking, we have what we need to bless others this Christmas. I would encourage you, whether you're single and 16, or married and 50, to consider a budget for your finances, or as a beginning step, your Christmas spending.
So for Day 6 of Blogmas, I will be sharing 10 Tips for Saving Money this Christmas.
These are not meant to guilt you, or add more pressure to your spending and saving, but to help you! I just believe that Christmas is too wonderful of a time for stress about money to steal the show.
1. Remember the truth: stuff is just stuff.
Don't get caught up in proving your value or love for another person in the gifts that you give. It's not worth it to rack up the credit card debt for someone who would be just as excited about something simple and thoughtful. No matter what, you are giving them something they did not have before.
2. Create a price point for each person you are buying for.
Before we start spending, Reed and I create a list of everyone we are buying gifts for. Next to their names, we write down what we are able to spend (round up a bit for tax). This gives us the estimated total before we're even at the cash register, where we would be a lot more lenient and thoughtless. We make edits as the list is written, because the growing total reveals to us what we thought was doable, versus what actually is.
3. Decide what you are buying, before you actually do.
Once the price point for each person is decided, THEN think of gifts that fit within that price. All too often, we do it in reverse. We find something we think a friend will love, and then we find the money to buy it. It's important for YOU to tell your money where it is going to go. Having the budget beforehand, actually helps narrow down gift options for the people on your list! Once this step is complete, you will have a list of everyone you are buying for, what you are spending (so that you know what to save), and what you are getting them! It's the best!
4. Don't forget about gift wrap.
I often overlook gift wrap as I'm budgeting and planning for gifts. Because I'm a huge fan of pretty things, my $20 gift easily can turn into a $40 gift, simply because of wrapping paper, a card, and ribbon. Think about ways you can get creative with gift wrap, find places that sell great stuff for cheap (Ikea, Marshall's, Cost Plus, and Target are my go-to's!), and factor that into your budget for each person.
5. Shop online for far-away friends and family.
Though Reed and I primarily use cash for our purchases, we've found that you will save money in shipping, you are spared the stress of the Post Office at Christmas, and you can often include gift wrap and a card in online purchases. It may seem a little impersonal, but it is so much easier for those in your life who live far away. I will include a warning. Online shopping removes the emotional attachment to our money and tells us that we should add that one extra thing for the free shipping. Exercise restraint and limit your online purchases if this is your weakness!
6. Think ahead for those Christmas parties.
Why do we always act surprised when that Ugly Christmas Sweater party comes around? We forget that it, or its White Elephant counterpart are almost guaranteed, and we scramble to find a sweater or under $25 gift that doesn't suck. Avoid overspending on these by thinking ahead, making a budget, and getting creative! Go to Michael's and buy a pack of $5 Christmas ornaments to hook onto a sweater you already have. Pick up a candle or box of Christmas cookie mix for your White Elephant exchange. And have a delicious, tried and true meal on hand for when you host. No surprises, this year!
7. Think about how you can have quality over quantity.
With a few of our friends, we've decided to forego presents for fun double dates. A dinner together is something you can just as easily plan for financially, and it provides the sweet opportunity for quality time together, learning about each others likes and interests, instead of trying to guess at them in the aisles of Target.
8. Silence the "treat yo self" mentality. You're okay.
One year, I was so tired from shopping, hustling from store to store, and spending money, that I decided I needed to spend a little more to feel better. WHAT?! Christmas shopping won the fight, and I drowned my bank account sorrows in one too many Wetzels Pretzels. Having a plan, and being the boss of your own budget, will remove the feeling of being OWNED by Christmas shopping. Stay in control and let your tiredness or "hangry" be the indicators that something needs to change. Which leads me to my next tip...
9. Take care of yourself + make your coffee to go.
All too often, we lose our Christmas joy in the throws of financial worry. With a budget and plan in place, you have no reason to fear! Get enough sleep, enjoy time at home, and practice self-care. Don't trade in this season of slow for frantic. It's not an even trade. In taking care of yourself, and planning ahead, you will also free yourself to save money in unexpected ways. I wonder how many shoppers unnecessarily buy a venti Starbucks because they are tired, stressed, and running late. Put your homemade, delicious coffee in a travel mug, and go to your malls RESTED. It will make all the difference.
10. Hang onto your Christmas shopping list for next year.
When the Christmas gifts are all purchased and wrapped, and the parties have come to a close, look at your list and see if it worked. One year, I didn't budget enough for stocking stuffers, and I made a note on my list so that I could save more for next year. If you're married, discuss with your spouse the wins and losses, and share some ideas for doing it better next year. Add your notes, keep the list somewhere you'll remember, and next year will be even better!
I hope you find these tips to be helpful! I know that using these tools has made Christmas all the more enjoyable for me. What are your tips for saving money during the Christmas season? Please let me know if you use any of these! As always, share in the comments your thoughts & questions!