It’s easy to let holiday spending get out of control. Here are five tips Christmas on a budget!
For years, I paid no attention to how much I spent during the holidays. Then I had kids and quit my job to start my own work-at-home business. And I’ll tell you what, it can be really tough to change your holiday spending habits!
But I’ve learned a few things in the last few years, and now I keep a very tight budget. I’m going to share with you my best tips for saving money during holidays.
5 Tips for Saving Money This Holiday Season
Related: 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas by Money Saving Mom
1. Make a general list BEFORE you do any shopping (including looking through ads).
My husband and I follow the “Something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need*” guideline for buying our children Christmas gifts. It just helps keep things under control.
Then we come up with general ideas for each category BEFORE we do any shopping. It helps us from being tempted by all those cool looking toys, gadgets, and clothes that are on sale around the holidays! Because, let’s be real. Grown-ups can get just as caught up in the toy-craze as kids can.
So my general lists might look something like this:
Miss S (age 7)
- Wear: Hoodie
- Read: Non-fiction Science or History Book
- Want: Super Hero Toy
- Need: Science Kit
Miss K (age 5)
- Wear: Sneakers
- Read: Fern Hollow Book
- Want: Princess Toy
- Need: Math Related
Mr. P (age 2)
- Wear: Hoodie
- Read: Pete the Cat or Llama Llama
- Want: Mickey Mouse Toy
- Need: Number Related
As you can see, some things are pretty specific, but for the most part they are general. So while shopping for gifts, we don’t even glance at the super-cute art sets at Costco or the Daniel Tiger play set set at Target. Not letting myself be tempted is my main strategy for saving money! I make similar lists for other people we are buying for too.
*We put educational items and toys in the “need” category because, truly, our kids need for very little.
2. Make a budget for each gift you plan to buy.
Instead of setting one big budget number, I budget a certain amount for each gift and for every other holiday related thing on my shopping list. Then I make sure that adds up to the total amount our budget allows. That way I know exactly how much to spend on each item.
If I see a really fun science kit for $15, but my budget is $12, I keep shopping. Even if the $15 one is a great deal. I DO allow rollovers though. So if I find a Lego set for $10 but my budget was $12, I let myself spend an extra $2 on other things.
3. Use rewards/savings programs and apps.
There are tons of rewards programs and savings programs that help you save big! I’m just learning about some of these, and it can be a bit overwhelming if you are a newbie.
Aside from store loyalty programs (where you have the little plastic tag on your keychain, or you just enter your phone number at checkout), there are apps and programs that give you cash back for shopping at certain retailers.
These are nice for saving on gifts, but some are geared more toward grocery savings so they are great for saving on your holiday cooking. It’s easy to overlook the extra money spent on food during the holidays, with Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together. Then if you happen to host or attend any New Year’s get-togethers it can really add up!
Related: How to Budget for Holiday Meals by Living Well Spending Less
These apps can be used on top of sales and coupons, saving even more money. Here are a few I’m using:
- Ebates (You can use this to get cash back by shopping at Amazon! Plus many, many other retailers. My friend Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green has a fantastic guide to how Ebates works!)
- Ibotta (I use this more for food/grocery items, but there are also tons of rebates on apparel, restaurants, toys, etc. too.)
- Checkout 51 (This app is new to me, but looks like it is mostly – if not all – grocery items.)
- Swagbucks (This is another one you can use for online shopping!)
4. Give more gift cards.
I know gift cards are not personal. I don’t give them to friends and family (unless they specifically ask for them). But these are great for all of the other people you buy for.
My favorite is giving gift cards as teachers’ gifts. I’ve found that I spend less if I buy my kids’ teachers gift cards instead of gifts, and the teachers seem to truly appreciate not getting yet another coffee mug or chalkboard wall art.
This is also a super idea for office gift exchanges. The really great thing is that you can usually buy them all at the same place (even if the actual gift cards are to different places) because many stores sell gift cards to multiple places. As impersonal as they may be, most people seem to appreciate gift cards.
5. Compare prices and avoid making impulse purchases – even for items that are on your list.
Shop around! If you see a great price, check a few other places before snagging the deal. Also, don’t forget about shipping costs. Pay attention to related offers and savings opportunities too, like on rebate and coupon apps.
Our first Christmas as parents, we quickly learned how easy it can be to go overboard. Especially with your first baby because they have no hand-me-downs, so you tell yourself, “She’ll use it next year and it’s a great deal! I can’t pass it up!”
But that’s a trap! The deals will come around again next year, and you’ll be tempted again. This is our 7th Christmas as parents, and we’ve really gotten a good system down. I hope these tips help you out too!
What are your best tips for saving money during the holidays? Share with us in the comments!