We all know the holidays can be expensive, but we tend to focus on the big-ticket items. Whether it’s gift-giving, travel or a big family meal, we know what the biggest holiday costs are in most cases. Those items will probably put the biggest dent in your wallet, but there are plenty of smaller costs we don’t always think about. And those costs can really add up.
Maybe you have to ship a gift for a family member across the country. Or maybe you like to participate in a friendly competition for whose Christmas decorations can light up the entire neighborhood.
Whatever the case may be, these items can really add up. That’s why it’s important to make space for them in your budget. Here, we’ll cover a few small steps you can take to be sure you can enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.
Set Up a Holiday Budget
Creating a budget isn’t the most glamorous solution, but it works. Setting hard limits on how much you will spend during the holidays will give you the sort of tough love treatment you just may need.
You can even take it a step further by using a system such as budget envelopes for the holidays. Budget envelopes allow you to create spending categories and then only spend as much as you allocate to each category. For the holidays, you could have a Thanksgiving and Christmas envelope. Or you could take it a step further and have categories for gifts, travel and even shipping and wrapping paper.
With budget envelopes, once the money in that envelope is gone, you can’t spend anymore unless you “borrow” from another envelope. Typically, that resets at the beginning of the month, or you could just set aside a certain amount for each holiday season. Today, there are apps that let you create budget envelopes, making it even easier.
Experiences Over Things
This one is admittedly easier when you have fewer young children in the family. However, at the end of the day, spending time with family is what’s most important, especially if some of the family moves far away. Spending a Thanksgiving meal together or going to cut down a Christmas tree for the family can sometimes be enough. If your family agrees, perhaps you can just spend time together and agree that giving gifts isn’t necessary.
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Scale Back Your Gift Giving
Everyone loves receiving gifts, and we tend to enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them as we age. However, the latter can get expensive with all the wrapping paper, tags and possibly shipping. Add to that the fact that we have ever-expanding families with nieces, nephews and perhaps grandchildren coming into the picture, and gift-giving can get more expensive every year.
If you find yourself in this precarious situation, why not scale back on gift-giving? For example, you could opt to only give gifts to immediate family members. At most, maybe you extend that to nieces, nephews and grandchildren. They probably love receiving gifts, after all.
But when it comes to cousins and their families, and more extended family members, you could opt to send them cards instead. And to make it even less expensive, you could make your own cards, too (more on that next).
The great thing about creativity is it knows no bounds. There are so many ways to get creative and save money as a result. While buying everything you need for the holidays is convenient, it can also get expensive very quickly. Instead, consider these ways to avoid pulling out the paper or plastic — money, that is.
Make Your Own Decorations
At first, making your own decorations might sound tough. After all, how are you going to be able to make that singing, animatronic Rudolph? Of course, the answer is that you would also have to rein in your expectations about the décor.
No, you may not be able to have your own laser light show when going this route, but there are plenty of creative outdoor decorations that will be a whole lot cheaper. Whether it’s making your own wreath or laying a few Christmas lights on an old bicycle, there are lots of ways to save money on decorations.
Make Your Own Christmas Cards
Again, buying all your Christmas cards is fast and convenient, but the costs add up quickly. If you happen to have a few extra hours, why not make your own cards? Cardboard is inexpensive and it doesn’t cost much to pick up a few markers, colored pencils and maybe a few other items from the crafts store. Perhaps it helps if you are the artistic type, but everyone appreciates a homemade gift — and they’re cheaper, too.
Use a Wrapping Paper Substitute
This is a simple solution that my sisters have been using for years. If you still happen to subscribe to a print newspaper, old newspapers actually work quite well as a wrapping paper substitute. For smaller gifts, you could even use print magazines or anything that folds nicely.
Sure, it may not look quite as nice, but it’s what’s inside the wrapping paper that counts. Not only can this save money, but it can save trees, too.
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