Not to add to your stress level, but the holidays are just around the corner.
Between Christmas shopping and parties, the upcoming months tend to be a high-spend time of year.
But you don’t need to go crazy buying gifts to have a good time.
This holiday season, be smart and make a plan so you feel in control — and avoid starting the new year in the red.
Read on to learn 10 holiday prep ideas to save you money.
1. Start Planning Early
This means now.
Before you buy a single gift, compile a complete list of recipients: family, friends, co-workers, etc.
Then write down potential gift ideas for each person.
If there’s an extra-special event coming up such as a proposal, consider more economical options like pearl engagement rings rather than diamonds.
Be sure to include such items as part of your list.
When you have a plan, you’re much more likely to not overspend.
2. Set Your Budget
The next step is to set a total budget for all your gifts, followed by an approximate amount for each individual.
Your mom will likely be getting a bigger gift than your boss — or maybe it’s the reverse.
Each allocation is up to you, but seeing it in black and white will go a long way towards helping you stay within your means.
Make a spreadsheet if that’s your style, or write it out on paper.
Having a hard copy to refer back to helps immensely.
It will also be highly useful when the bills start rolling in.
3. Perform an Audit
Still on the topic of budgeting, it’s not a bad idea to review your everyday spending at this time.
Maybe you can cut back on something like takeaways for a month or two — or longer — to help defray the extra expense of holiday gifts.
If one of your hobbies is window-shopping and you’ve been known to pick up random items that catch your eye, impose a ban on browsing until the holidays are over.
Shop with a list and do not stray from it.
This is a smart idea whether you’re perusing in person or online.
Safer not to tempt yourself.
There’s a lot of great gear out there, and it’s way too easy to blow your budget.
4. Choose the Frugal Option
Remember, you don’t have to go full throttle on every gift, or any of them.
Everyone already owns a lot of stuff, much more than we need, and a small token can be just as meaningful as a pricey one.
At the very least, it’s worth doing some comparison shopping to see where you can save.
Have a look around at different sites and retail shops to see which ones have the best deals.
Check twice, even thrice, before pulling the trigger.
Keep in mind that designer brands also hold less sway now than they did in the past.
Your niece may be perfectly happy with a pink sparkly purse, and could not care less what label is on it.
Also ask friends for their favourite shopping sites, read reviews, and don’t rush (see tip #1).
You can save a lot.
5. DIY Your Gifts
Take things a step further by making gifts yourself.
If you have the time and inclination, you can craft at least some of your presents.
Yarn projects, foodstuffs, ornaments, candleholders, beer totes…the possibilities are endless.
Homemade gifts have the added advantage of being personalised.
They’re also regarded by just about everyone as being extra-thoughtful.
And who knows?
You might even be able to parlay your talents into a money-maker and come away with some extra cash!
6. Pay with Cash
Do like the pros and keep from overspending by only using cash.
This won’t work for online but there’s plenty of temptation from the Winter Wonderland holiday market stall, not to mention how easy it is to get dazzled by the displays in brick-and-mortar shops.
Being limited by the cash in your pocket forces you to really consider before making a purchase.
7. Think Twice
If it’s a big-ticket item, don’t be in any hurry to buy.
Take your time, sleep on it, and even discuss the purchase with a friend or family member before taking the plunge.
Yet another reason to get a jump on holiday shopping and not leave it to the last minute.
8. Pick Up Extra Hours/Take a Seasonal Job
Putting in a few extra hours each week over the next month or two can really add up.
Alternatively, you could find a weekend shift at a retail store.
Many shops are looking for additional staff during the busy holiday season.
Score a two-fer by landing a discount at the same time.
Pick a store you would normally shop at to get the biggest bang for your hard work.
9. Don’t Assume Online Is Always Cheaper
Online shops have the advantage of lower overhead, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to offer the best deal, especially during the holiday season.
It’s worth your while to check out the sales at your local shops too.
Many of them will offer deep discounts to get you through the door — just be sure to not get snookered into buying more than the sale item.
When comparing prices between online and retail, take shipping fees into account, as well as delivery dates.
If you’re ordering anything from overseas, unless you shop early, it may not arrive in time.
10. Take Advantage of Cash Back Offers/Loyalty Plans
Many credit cards offer incentives at this time of year for certain types of purchases.
This includes specialities like makeup or gaming, but general department stores also have similar offers.
Other cash-back options include Rakuten and Honey.
Rakuten is free to use and works for both online and in-store purchases.
The way it works is that shops pay Rakuten a commission for sending them business.
They in turn share a percentage with you, the consumer.
Honey is another free browser extension that does price comparisons and tracking for you.
They’ll send you discount coupons and codes to help you get the best prices.
Loyalty programmes are yet another money-saving option.
You can get free shipping and access to exclusive deals, saving you big.
To recap, shop early, set a budget and stick to it, trim the fat, DIY it, compare prices and sign up for cash-back offers.
Armed with these tips, you can take control of your budget and skip the killer hangover credit card bill, making your holidays that much more enjoyable!
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