Here we are again with Christmas right around the corner, wondering why time flies by so quickly! The television and radio advertisements are rapidly becoming saturated with talk of Christmas shopping, the stores are decorated, and holiday music seems to somehow magically follow along wherever we go. This time of year is supposed to be filled with good cheer, but for many, the thought of trying to select gifts for everyone on the shopping list is daunting and stressful due to financial concerns. In a time when just about everyone is trying to cut back, is it possible to still have a joyful Christmas? The answer is yes, of course! Some planning and creativity will allow us to stay within our budget and also enjoy the holiday. The most important thing to remember, however, is the fact that Christmas is made special by creating memories with our friends and loved ones, and that can be done no matter how much money we spend.
Okay, first of all – make a budget and stick with it no matter what. It can be very tempting to “wing it” when you’re at the mall or in the department store and all sorts of sales and markdowns are catching your eye, but strive to avoid the temptations unless you’re prepared to figure the purchases into your budget. When you set out to plan your budget begin with a gift list. Write down each and every person you wish to buy for, and every charity you wish to donate to. Don’t forget anyone – family, friends, teachers, co-workers, etc. The next step is to write down what you would like to purchase for each person and how much you’d like to spend. Once you have everyone listed and you’ve tallied up the amount of money necessary to complete your shopping, you might want to reduce the list gradually and as necessary. For example, if you’ve listed your postal carrier and you plan on gifting them with a $30 scarf, you can perhaps change that to a box of homemade cookies or fudge. Continue to review your list and make budget conscious adjustments when possible and appropriate.
Begin your shopping as early as possible, and make sure to take advantage of special sales leading up to the holiday season, and of course if you’re able to join the crowds and shop on Black Friday, you can pick up incredible deals on that notorious day of shopping. If Black Friday isn’t an option for you, that’s okay because there are other ways to find exceptional deals. Shop discount and big box stores such as Walmart and Costco whenever possible, and dollar stores are great sources for stocking stuffers. Taking the time to peruse the weekend sale papers is absolutely necessary, as it enables you to locate special prices on items you probably have on your list and you can map out a plan of action for when you go out to shop. Other than actually leaving the house to shop, there are also amazing deals to be found online. There are dozens of sites that specialize in “one deal per day” – for example, today they might have a 3-pack of name brand scarves that retail for $65 on sale for $12.99 and many times free shipping is part of the deal. Use your favorite search engine and type in “one deal per day” or other variations of the phrase to locate a selection of such websites. Another advantage of shopping online is the ability to have gifts for loved ones who live out of town sent directly to their door. Gift wrap might not always be an option, but you can almost always have the price you paid for the item obscured. Look for the option to do so once you begin the process of checking out and paying for your purchases.
Be prepared to make changes in how you celebrate Christmas as well. At work you might want to suggest playing a gift swapping game such as Secret Santa to reduce the overall number of gifts you’ll have to buy, and the same can be done with neighbors or church friends. Make a bargain with your spouse and other adult family members to spend only a nominal amount on gifts for each other so that a little extra can be devoted to buying for the children of your family.
Use the tips above and brainstorm for some of your own, you’ll find it’s much easier than you imagined to have a merry, and frugal, Christmas!
This guest post is by Stephani Spitzer for Advance Me Inc America’s leading provider of the merchant cash advance – an alternative to traditional, collateral based bank loans, for small-medium sized businesses.