The holidays are probably the hardest time of the year to save money, what with demands, temptations, and things we would like to do for ourselves and othersparties, giving gifts, sending cards, decorating. But there are ways to make it a special, memorable time without running up a stack of bills you can’t live with in the new year.
1. Set a realistic budget and shopping list early on and stick to it. Base it on how much money you actually have to spend during the holidays, not on what you think you need to spend.
2. Never borrow money for gift giving.
3. Photographs make meaningful gifts. During the year, take a photograph that would hold meaning for the recipient (of her and a grandchild, for example), have it enlarged, and frame it yourself.
4. Consider giving gifts of time (babysitting, house cleaning, lawn mowing, etc.) or gifts that you make, such as jellies, jams, breads, baked goods, or crafts.
5. Try giving presents that you can gift to an entire family instead of individually, such as a croquet set, special video, or board game.
6. Use postcards for Christmas cards to save on postage and the price of cards. But mail them early.
7. Shop off-the-beaten-path places like closeout stores, garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. These places often have real treasures at bargain prices.
8. Look for items you can renew, such as a small piece of furniture (a plant stand or footstool) that you could refinish or paint.
9. Stay away from credit cards. Spend cash instead. Thirty-four percent of shoppers said they spend more money when they use a credit card, a Debt Counselors of America study showed.
10. If you are going to entertain, host a potluck, rather than a dinner party. You still get the camaraderie without footing the entire food bill. Or focus the get-together on Christmas caroling or some kind of activity.
11. Keep track of all your holiday spending this year so that next year you can make a true comparison to create a realistic budget.
12. Check the accuracy of every receipt before you leave the store and save them in case you or the recipient wants to return a gift for a full refund.
13. Consider giving cash or gift certificates to those who live out of town. By the time you factor in shopping, wrapping and mailing time, postage, and tax, you may come out better. Plus, you know it will fit.