Looking ahead at the season we’re in, it’s easy to passively use credit cards or savings accounts to pay for gifts and decorations, but we often fail to realize how much we’re actually spending. Money can become tight and you never want to put yourself in place where you’re unable to pay your bills every month. Living month-to-month and paycheck-to-paycheck is a real thing for people who are not dripping in the dough, and something almost every 20-something like myself is going through. This year, we had to be extra creative, being that every penny we have is being saved for a home, and I’ve cultivated a few of my favorite tips to live my for the holiday season that helped us to set and stick to a budget.
By forecasting your bills and future expenses, you’ll know exactly how much you have left over for holidays, going out, etc. If you live by this amount, then you’ll never have to worry about spending more than you have to gather debt. For some, it may near nothing, but any little bit helps if you save month-over-month.
Throughout the year, my husband and I use cash to pay a lot of our day-to-day expenses, like fast food and gas. With cash comes a whole lot of change, which ultimately is in pockets and cupholders. Once a week, I clean out my car, gather the change and place it into a jar by our keys. Once the jar is full, I take it to the bank and cash it for a little extra boost – usually about $40-$50! Save your change all year long, regularly role it and take it all in before the holidays for a little extra money to spend this season.
Sure, it’s nice to go Black Friday shopping and spend $500 on new electronics and gifts, but are they in the budget you planned? My family has a rule of thumb of roughly $50 per person, so no individual feels overly treated and people feel no pressure to buy extravagant gifts. By setting the budget, and sticking to it, it helps you to save money when you’re out shopping. Don’t forget to factor in shipping and tax (which shouldn’t be included in the original amount that you budget!).
This is something new I tried and it worked wonderfully! I sat down, made a list of everyone I needed to buy a gift for and then evaluated how much money I had to spend. Once I know my “per person” amount, I wrote down gift ideas for each person in that budget and began shopping. I knew exactly what I needed, to help me stay on budget and not get distracted, and it even helped me save money by comparing different stores for the same product.
When I shop (mostly online), I used apps to find the best deals to save money so I can splurge on a few little things to go with it (my favorite Chrome add ons are Honey and Wikibuy). Not only do they remind me to search coupon codes (and they’ll instantly put them in for you), but Wikibuy notifies you right on Amazon’s page if there’s a better deal out there for the product you’re purchasing.
In store, I searched apps or websites to see if there were coupons available. I also checked for price-matching policies. I went to buy a gift at Best Buy for someone, and they price matched at the register for another business that was cheaper, helping me save a few bucks.
Wrapping paper and bows can be really expensive when buying the beautiful designer ones from stores like Target or trying to match those Pinterest-perfect pieces. I will admit, wrapping beautiful gifts is actually a passion of mine – I think it sets the tone to the gift you’re opening, plus I’m always a big “do it for the Insta” fan. This year, to save a few bucks, instead of splurging on the $6.99 per 10 feet of stripped gold foil wrapping paper, I purchased a $6.99 30 foot role of brown kraft packing paper (with a 40% off coupon) and decked it up with clearance ribbon from the craft store. For tags, I created my own designs on my computer and printed them on cardstock, but Pinterest offers many designs for free that are easy to print at home and cut out to use for your gifts. All in, I spent less than $15 on wrapping and took care of all my presents for three family Christmases.
Sure, every person has the dream gift in your head of what you want, but let’s be real, we all work on budgets. Sometimes you have to get creative with your gift and give something with personal over monetary value. Make a kit or give them an experience versus something material. Create a date night box with candy, dinner and movies from the dollar bin, or make something crafty from the local store, like a custom wreath. Follow sales ads for special coupons at such stores to help your bank account along.