When you have kids, the holiday season is a particularly big deal, and it’s easy to get carried away. Before you know it, you’ve spent a bundle of cash and gone over budget. I sure did, especially when my kids were young. The thrill of their excitement made it so easy to get caught up in the giving spirit, and not just with my kids, but with everyone.
According to a 2016 study by American Research Group, Inc., the average American spends roughly $900 on gifts during the holiday season. But families with multiple kids or large extended families often spend so much more. Add to the gift expense, there’s also the cost of holiday cards, decorating, baking, and holiday dinners, which can add up to a big chunk of change.
For many families, holiday spending sets them back financially for months if not longer. Particularly problematic is that credit cards make it so easy to overspend leaving families to suffer the consequences. It isn’t just the added monthly payments families must manage. There’s also the added cost of accrued interest.
So what can you do to make sure you start the new year without new debt?
First, create a holiday budget. Include not only gifts, food, and decorations, but also postage for holiday cards, wrapping supplies, and the babysitter for your shopping trip.
Once you’ve listed all your expenses, review it, and decide how to save on holiday spending. The following are some ways you can cut back. They’re mostly common sense ideas. But sometimes, I think we just need to give ourselves permission to cut back in these ways and realize doing so doesn’t make you a Scrooge; it makes you financially smart and responsible. Afterall, it isn’t the gifts and food that are most important is it? Rather, it’s the kinship that matters most.
Cut back on gifts and greetings
Gifts to extended family and friends are an excellent place to start. Talk to those you exchange gifts with, and see if they’ll agree to forego the gift exchange or else set a dollar limit. Another option for families or groups is to draw names to reduce the number of gifts everyone has to purchase, or hold a white elephant exchange.
Decide in advance on a gift value for each gift recipient. Let’s say you’ve decided on a gift value of $50 for your sister. Now, rather than buying her something on sale for $50 that’s worth $75, stick to the value. Buy something on sale for $35 that’s worth $50. This is a good place to shave some costs.
Do you usually send out more holiday cards than you receive? Why not mail cards only to those who send you a card? Better yet, opt instead to make a phone call during the holiday season for those you don’t talk to often. It’ll cost you nothing and have more meaning.
Plan your shopping before you head out. Do research online to find the best deals on those items on your shopping list. If you can’t find a good deal on something, consider an alternative. Also, keep your eyes out for newspaper fliers and check the ‘coupon’ page of the store websites you plan to shop.
If possible, leave credit cards at home when you go shopping to avoid impulse purchases. Many people spend far more than they plan on by purchasing unnecessary ‘bargains’ they just can’t resist.
Holiday food savings
Hold potluck dinners rather than playing head chef if you’ll be hosting any parties. Offer to provide just the meat. Then ask everyone to bring a specific type of dish to avoid duplicates.
To eliminate the cost of a babysitter, offer to exchange babysitting with a neighbor, so each of you has the opportunity to shop without the kids.
Finally, if you do use your credit card, try to make a serious plan to double or triple the monthly payments to reduce the interest you’ll pay and to quickly get out of debt.
by Kimberly Blaker
Post date: December 12, 2017
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