By Laura Rennie, Crosswalk.com
“I hate Christmas shopping… I have everything lined up to get done by certain dates, and if those things don’t get done then I’m a mess, and, well, that’s why I don’t like Christmas!”
This is, in so many words, what my friend shared with me this morning. We’ve hit that time of year — a phrase that makes some giddy with excitement and makes others want to crawl into bed until the New Year. I’ve always adored Christmas, but as an adult I’m having a hard time adoring the month and a half before Christmas. You know, the time spent researching and prepping Thanksgiving dishes, pulling out Christmas decorations, card writing and sending, list-making and gift buying… it can be overwhelming!
The biggest thing pulling my mind away from basking in the glow of Christmas this year is money. We are currently paying off some furniture, a car and medical bills. These payments added to our regular spending added to our travel expenses added to Christmas gifts we need to buy… well, is it any wonder my head has gone into a tailspin? We’re staying afloat, but as the manager of our home I’ve decided to employ a few money-saving methods to help put my mind at ease.
Feeling a bit pinched for cash this season? I’ve got you covered. All six of these methods have been personally tried by me and have helped give me more peace of mind about the extra spending that comes with the holidays. If you read through these ideas and find that only one or two suit your preferences, that’s fine! Reducing spending in any budget category will help make room for whatever holiday purchases come your way. Plus, all six tips can be used any time of year—not just at Christmas.
Having a clear idea of what you already own will go a long way in helping you say no when you’re out Christmas shopping and you’re tempted to buy something for yourself. It will also give you an idea of items to put on your Christmas list! I recently spent half an hour cleaning out my closet and re-organizing my clothes by type and color. Now I know I don’t need any more ¾ length tops or black items in general. I took inventory just in time—I was just at Target the other day and caught myself mulling over a black top. Thankfully, I managed to keep myself from buying it!
Make a no-buy list
After taking inventory, make a mental list of things you need to stop buying. During past holiday seasons I would load up on Christmas-y wrapping paper, candles and décor. At this point, I have more than enough items to last me at least through this year. Don’t let coupons or sales tempt you into buying things you already have plenty of.
It helps to have accountability on this one. For example, if I’m out shopping with a friend, I’ll say, “Don’t let me buy any wrapping paper!” Or, “I can only buy things for other people.”
Skip the hair or nail appointment
I don’t go to the hair salon often because my mom still cuts my hair. I do love pedicures, though. It’s not uncommon for me to get a pedicure once every few months. I’m not breaking our bank, but I’ve noticed I feel better about spending in other areas when I’ve “saved” the money I might normally spend on my nails. I’ve also started asking for certificates to the nail salon as a gift.
If part of the reason you want to hit the salon is to look nice at holiday parties, remember that your friends and family could care less about how your hair or nails look. They just want to spend time with you!
Eat out of the pantry/freezer
If you know me, you know I feel strongly about this one. One December I challenged myself to only buy fresh fruit and milk at the store. Everything else we ate came from our freezer or pantry. Sometimes our meals weren’t very healthful, but we saved a lot on groceries! The point isn’t so much to not buy ANYTHING at the store, but instead to use up items you already own. I utilize this tip quite often (mostly because our freezer fills up fast), but it works especially well to do it over the holidays. Chances are you’ll bring home leftovers from Christmas parties or you’ll be going out of town for part of the month, so you won’t want a ton of perishable food in the house anyway.
Set up an eating out rule
As un-fun as this sounds, restricting how often you eat out is a no-brainer when it comes to saving money. Plus, it will help keep your weight goals on track if you’re keeping an eye on the scale this Christmas. One year I told my co-workers I could only go out to lunch with them once every other week.
Figure out what “treats” are most important to you (Starbucks peppermint latté, anyone?) and maybe take a look at your calendar to see if there are any nights that absolutely require pizza. (Hey, we’ve all been there.) Planning meals ahead of time will go a long way in making this strategy work.
Establish a budget for gifts
I am a big supporter of this strategy. Having a limit makes gift-buying easier for me because I can immediately discard anything I deem “too pricy.” When I was newly married and stressed over having six extra family members to buy gifts for, I challenged myself to spend no more than $20 a person. At first I felt bad because I knew others were spending more money on presents for us, but I had to be realistic about our finances. (Plus, I was still in college.) I managed to purchase two books and a necklace for one of my nieces, and I didn’t go over budget!
What are your money-saving tips for the holidays? We’d love to know!
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.