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Just like every year, Christmas is on December 25th. Even though we know that, it seems like it just “sneaks up on us” before we even get to plan anything. This year, instead of waiting until December 24th to start figuring out how to pay for the holidays, think about checking out these tips to making sure that you don’t regret all of Christmas once your January credit card statement hits.
Christmas always comes up so quickly. I don’t know about you, but I am beaming with excitement. I can’t wait for Hall-o-ween to be over with so I can start decorating my apartment! The holidays are always my favorite time of the year with the sugar cookies, the Christmas trees and lights, and actually being able to spend time with my family. I can already hear the Christmas music in my head.I know it will come up faster than we expect, because it always does.
This year, don’t let your budget be surprised by the Christmas holiday!
1) Set a budget before the holidays get here!
Figure out exactly how much you think you are going to need. When I made my Christmas budget of $1000, it includes dinners with friends, decorations for my apartment, presents for everyone on my list, and any holiday festivities that may happen. I very carefully figured out what I thought was necessary for all of the different categories, but that still seems like too much for a holiday budget. I tried to think about last year to figure out what I spent, but I truthfully have no clue.
In 2017, I way over did Christmas and ended up spending a ton of money on gifts! For 2018, I am aiming to do a little better. I am unsure of what I will do for gifts for my family this year, but I am aiming for smaller and more meaningful. I realize that they don’t really need anything big!
2) Start buying or saving early
Some people start buying things when they see them on sale. If you have the storage/hiding space, this is a great idea. Especially if you know exactly what to buy for everyone on your list way ahead of time. This is great for generic gifts for coworkers or acquaintances.
I know people who buy a gift card with every single paycheck all year. It may not seem like a lot, but buying two $25 gift cards leaves you with $1,300 for the holiday season, which is way more than most people spend on Christmas! Some gift cards can be given, some can be used to buy gifts, but either way, that is a great way to plan ahead! Take it one step further and get your gift cards from Cardpool. Cardpool is a discounted gift card company that resells unused giftcards. When you sign up today, you can get $5 off your first gift card purchase!
My family is so hard to shop early for because I never know what they want until after Thanksgiving. I started putting Christmas money away in June, but next year I plan on starting in January so it isn’t as much every month. I put about $80 a month in an envelope and have slowly started saving more when I have a little extra. I don’t know how much I spent on Christmas last year, but I am determined to have some extra cash at the end of it. Having money in savings set aside for Christmas is the easiest way to make sure you have the money! I have used sinking funds in the past to help save up for Christmas in advance.
Ebates is another fantastic tool for getting cash back for shopping online. You can’t use Swagbucks and Ebates at the same time, but I mostly use Swagbucks for the search engine, daily polls and occasionally the surveys. Ebates has a ton of great coupon codes as well as cash back on great online stores! You are sure to find a store that you love with them! Wal-mart, Groupon, Amazon, and Kohls are some of the most well known websites along with many more. (Hint: my favorite its Books-A-Million, where they have a ton of great books/ebooks for cheap!) I actually just bought a new phone through Ebates and got $22 in cash back! How awesome is that!
Ebates is great for any online shopping that you may do. I use it for Amazon and a few other purchases. There are set things that I purchase regularly that I make sure to go through Amazon. I am planning on doing a majority of my Christmas shopping online through Ebates, so I can earn some great cash back rewards to buy myself something nice after the holidays! When you sign up through this link, you will get $10 after your first transaction of $25+ through them!
4) Decide which holiday events you want to take place in.
You don’t have to do every “Christmas” Bucket list item. Make a list of as many free Christmas festivities as you can. Pick a few of your favorite non-free things and see how cheap you can do them. One of my favorites is driving around looking at Christmas lights with hot cocoa. Make the hot cocoa at home instead of buying it or maybe walk around your neighborhood instead of driving.
Make your own sugar cookies to decorate instead of buying cookies. There are some great Pinterest recipes for cookies and your own frosting. Finding different things to do instead of spending money on every single holiday activity can be a great way to cut back on Christmas expenses. Find the cheapest ornaments. Your home doesn’t have to look perfect, so use what you have.
In 2016, I went on a Christmas/Birthday road trip. 12 hours and 4 days worth of road tripping food and lodging. It was totally worth it and I had an amazing time, but I can’t say that I will be doing it again this year. Even though I really, really want to. This was a huge budget breaker for me, but I plan on going back next year and making a tradition of it. In College Station, Texas, they have the biggest display of Christmas lights. It is a huge park area full of Christmas joy! I will go back someday, but not while I am trying to pay off debt!
5) Limit presents
Talk to your family about drawing names or doing a white elephant gift exchange. These can sometimes be way more fun than actually shopping. Buying generic or funny gifts and drawing numbers for each present can be a ton of fun to trade and share gifts. We spend an hour fighting over a wine glass set and bottle of wine last Christmas.
Another way of limiting presents is to agree on a set limit per person. This eliminates the chance of going overboard or having anyone that feels left out. $20 a person can be great if you have bigger families because then everyone gets the same “love.” Spend Thanksgiving talking about setting a limit on each gift so the whole family is on board. I actually received one of my favorite blankets through a family gift exchange! I use it every single day!
Also, work around your list. Do you really need to buy a bunch of stuff for every neighbor on the block? Who can you eliminate from your shopping list! I have my list down to 7 people! My parents are always the hardest to shop for but I am actually more nervous about my little brother this year because I don’t know what he is going to be asking for!
6) Skip presents
Along with limiting gifts that you are buying, don’t feel like every person needs presents. Scan through your shopping list to see who you really need to buy for and who you don’t. Maybe your partner and you decide to save money and not get each other gifts. Doing something together might just be way better than some sweater that doesn’t fit you or a piece of jewelry that sits on your dresser for the rest of the year.
Some families do other things than purchase gifts. Maybe taking a small road trip would still be cheaper than buying everyone gifts. Even if you can turn it into a day trip or go out to do fun things as a family. $20-$30 activities can still save the bank and create great memories for the family. Make it a tradition to do something as a family instead of just buying each other gifts.
You could also spend an entire day at home just watching Netflix Christmas movies and baking cookies! These are both super cheap, but feel like you aren’t missing out on any of the Christmas cheer!
7) Use Credit Card Rewards
I know that Dave Ramsey says no to credit cards, but I love my rewards. I set up my cards for a few purchases a month. By the time Christmas hits, I will have about $75 in gift cards for Amazon and Wal-mart with just putting gas, groceries, and a few regular business purchases on them. I pay them off every month, so I haven’t EVER paid interest on them. I never spend more than what I can pay back and usually I have money in an envelope to pay it back the second I swipe my card anywhere.
I cash in my credit card rewards for Christmas for purchases. Last year, I got four $5 Starbucks gift cards and found a cute coffee cup, using my amazon rewards points, to put it in. I think I threw in some chocolates and had a great gift for under $5 out of pocket. I also got a few $25 amazon gift cards that allowed me to make a few purchases without spending any of my own money!
If you have the control to use credit cards, I suggest doing so for minor purchases. I only use mine for gas, groceries, and a few online subscriptions go straight to them every month! Big cash for little spending! I wrote a whole blog posts about my bank accounts and maybe that will help you with your credit cards as well!
8) Make a Little Extra Money Around the Holidays
I have an entire blog post about how I make extra money year around. But here are just a few more!
Sell some items around the house
I have sold a handful of clothing items, an old office chair that I never used, and some home décor that was no longer in use. Selling items on the Facebook Market Place is a great way to put some extra spending cash in your pocket. There is stuff all over my apartment that I need to get rid of in an effort to clean up and organize better. I have also used Poshmark to sell some clothes from my closet to add to my holiday fund!
Swagbucks is probably one of my favorite things because I basically get money for using my computer. They have daily polls, get points for using your search engine, and cash back for some of your online purchases. I don’t shop online a lot, but I do buy a monthly gift card for the restaurant that I work at. This helps with my budget, but I also get cash back points with it.
I am excited to cash out my Swagbucks points for a gift card for Christmas purchases. I mostly do the surveys on Swagbucks while I am watching Netflix, so it isn’t really anything that I spend a ton of time doing. When you sign up through my link, you get 300 Swagbucks after you earn your first 300!
Offering to babysit for a little price around the holidays could be a blessing to some parents. Having a babysitter allows the parents to get out of the house for a much needed date and to get their own Christmas shopping done while they can shop kid-free style. They also might have holiday parties for work or church that they need a babysitter. Picking up a few nights could be great for your Christmas Fund!
Start Your Own Blog
While starting your own business costs money before it actually makes money, blogging is a fantastic way to make a little money while you are getting ready for the holidays. Sign up for my 7 Day Blogging E-Mail Course or just jump right in and start your own blog today!
Whatever you end up doing to save and make some money, be sure to enjoy the holidays! It is so much better when you can take a step back from your every day life to spend some time with family. Fun activities can make the holiday season one to remember! Don’t remember the holidays by the huge credit card statement that you get in January and can’t pay off!