Now that Thanksgiving is over and Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday Shopping are all in full throttle, it’s not uncommon for me to starting smelling a little smoke coming from my purse. Smoke, that is, from a burning credit card! As tempting as it is to close my eyes and pray that my credit card will somehow pay itself off, being an adult (ugh!) and staying fiscally responsible this time of year can be tough. Especially when holiday shopping quickly turns into a massive shopping excursion for myself … (oops!). If you find yourself both excited and nervous about the upcoming expenses, hopefully some of these tips can keep the credit card and bank accounts protected.
First things first. What’s my budget?
I know, I know. The dreaded “B” word. But being honest with yourself up front with what you’re working with will help you stay accountable.
Build a holiday list.
This, in itself, has so many special memories for me. Over the previous few years, I would build my holiday list with one of my good friends over coffee and Pandora holiday music. We would design our lists in color and drawings and brainstorm ideas for friends and family. We didn’t hold back and included everyone that we could think of to celebrate the holiday spirit with. Ignite your inner childhood spirit, grab a buddy, and get crafty with your holiday list.
Make your holiday list affordable.
Buying presents for 10+ family members or friends adds up really quickly. Give everyone a call or text and brainstorm ways to make the holiday gift exchange more affordable. Can you draw names from a hat and buy gifts for just one family member vs. all? Can you do you a Secret Santa swap instead? Can you nix the presents altogether??
Find alternatives to gift giving.
Rather than pouring tons of money into individual gifts, spend some money on food (in bulk) instead. Be creative and organize a potluck. Have everyone bring a special dish with a copy of their recipe- for each guest invited- and a little blurb about what makes their recipe so memorable. Put the recipes together and give the gift of health and wellness in the form of a family/friend holiday recipe book that everyone can take home and enjoy.
Cookie swaps are another great example- especially with colleagues at work. Make a batch large enough to give each person 3-4 cookies. The more people, the bigger plate of diversified desserts you get to take home and enjoy with loved ones!
Cut corners on some of your expenses.
If cutting down on your holiday gift giving list isn’t possible, find ways in your budget to cinch the belt a bit. Have automated monthly subscriptions? Put these on hold and find alternative solutions so you don’t feel deprived. For instance, put your gym membership on hold and switch to YouTube (free!), Beach Body On Demand (~$12/mo), or get outside for some exercise instead. Sometimes gyms across town offer free classes for newbies. Sign up for a few free sessions to build in some diversity to your gym routine. Better yet, take advantage of Groupon or Living Social to steal some sweat-deals.
Blow through one-coffee-a-day at Starbucks?
Depending on how fancy you are with your coffee, this could potentially save you $35+ a week by brewing it at home! That’s almost $150 a month. Think of how far this could potentially go with some loved ones on your holiday list.
Lay low on going out to eat.
Give yourself a challenge. See how creative you can get with the goods in your freezer and in your pantry. Give it a thaw and crank out the can opener. Do a Google search of whatever canned goods you have lying around. Pinterest some recipes for the frozen bags of broccoli and meat you have in your freezer. In the process, grab your loved one and cook together. Make the night cozy with candles, dim lighting, soft spa/instrumental background music, and some wine. Sharing a night cooking together can be just as relaxing as going out to a fancy restaurant… (not to mention a huge cash savings!).
Modify your fancy splurges.
For the women (+/- men!) out there, cut back on trips to the salon for a bit. If you’re a regular, maybe go ½ as often. If you go to the salon here and there, perhaps you won’t miss it if you skip it altogether. Soak in a tub with lavender soap, read a book, find a new Netflix series, or drink a glass of wine/ mug of cocoa next to the fireplace as alternative ways to feel relaxed and pampered. Oh- and doing so in a bathrobe makes R&R feel that much more luxurious!
Take advantage of those credit card points!
Cash in those credit card points for gift cards. Sometimes you can get more value out of a gift card redemption than an actual credit to your account. Some of my favorites are applying them to HomeGoods, Target, or Starbucks (oh… or Chipotle!). For those on your holiday list who are a little bit trickier to buy for, but equally happy to receive a card and gift card instead, use your points toward a store they’d appreciate. Easy-peezy.
Don’t let holiday shopping be financially stressful. Staying organized and accountable at the beginning of the season can help you stay on budget. Don’t worry if the finances need a break this year… remember; sharing memories with family and friends and giving gifts in unique ways other than expensive purchases can feel just as loving and memorable. Being thoughtful and kind, as well as intentionally setting aside time in our busy schedules to be with the ones we love are the most important parts of this holiday season.