On a budget? Who isn’t these days? With the economy still a bit tight for many families, it’s tough to think about the upcoming holidays without getting a little stressed. How are you going to afford it? Not to worry. It’s possible to have a magnificent family Christmas and still stay on or below budget.
Here are seven tips for a family Christmas that doesn’t break the bank.
#1 Plan well ahead: Chances are you can still get some closeout holiday decoration items from last year. We’re talking about holiday ornaments, table cloths and place settings, and of course wreaths and other adornments.
#2 Shop on auction sites: Start shopping for holiday gifts before the season is in full swing. Use auction sites like eBay to buy many of your gifts. You can buy them gently used or brand spanking new and save a bundle.
#3 Get a family gift: Depending on how old your children are, they may understand the concept of a budget. If they’re old enough to understand, pose the idea of a family gift to them instead of individual gifts. If you spend, for example, $300 on a family gift instead of spending $100 per person, you’re saving $100 on a four-person family and more if your family is larger.
Great ideas for family gifts might include a home gaming system, a new computer, a trip to a show, or even a new pet.
#4 Have everyone bring something: If you host a family Christmas get-together, instead of making the entire meal yourself, have others bring a dish to pass. You can make the main course and set the table; the rest is up to your family members.
#5 Simply scale down: Ask your family members and children specifically to choose one gift they want this year instead of ten. Ask them to keep to a specific dollar amount. Children understand that the holidays are about more than getting gifts.
#6 Make some gifts: If you’re crafty at all or an artist, make some gifts for people. If you’re a photographer for example, take a photo, frame it and give it as a gift. If you like to knit, knit holiday stockings for other family members. If you’re a cook, make them some delicious salsa or bread. They’ll love the personal attention.
#7 Trade and barter: One great way to get original gifts at a low price is to trade or barter with others. If you have a particular skill or service you can offer, that makes it much easier. For example, if you have a friend who owns a toy store, you can offer to work in the store in exchange for toys.
There are many creative ways to make the most of this holiday season without spending a fortune. Use your imagination and plan ahead.
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During the Christmas holiday season, one thing that’s immensely easy to do is to overspend. Of course, breaking the budget can lead to stress, anxiety, debt and no money left for anything else. That’s no way to spend your holidays! Here’s how to not overspend this Christmas.
#1 Set your priorities: What is the single most important thing to you this holiday season? Is it to see family you haven’t seen in a while? Is it to take time off from work and enjoy your family? Is it to travel to a new location and sightsee? Is it to see the smiles on your kids’ faces when they open their gifts?
What is the single most important thing you want to accomplish this holiday season?
#2 Create a plan around your priority: If, for example, your goal this holiday is to spend time with your family, then create a plan to make that happen. Perhaps you'll spend a weekend at an indoor water park during the holiday break. Maybe you'll take long days and visit local museums. Maybe you'll go Christmas caroling and decorate a tree. Write down the things that will help you achieve your goal.
#3 Budget: The next step, once you’ve created a plan to achieve your goal, is to budget for it. This means outlining what you have to spend on your holiday goal and how much it’s realistically going to cost. Don’t forget to budget a little bit for your other holiday priorities and expectations.
For example, maybe you’ve decided that in order to achieve your goal of a family vacation, you’re not going to get each other any gifts. You may still be obligated to get gifts for your child’s teachers or classroom secret Santa gifts. Make sure to include those items in your budget.
#4 Tracking: The next step to stay on budget, regardless of your holiday priorities and goals, is to track your expenses. For example, if you’re buying tickets for that family vacation, track how much it’s costing you. When you’re on vacation, make sure to track how much you’re spending. That way, you can be sure you’re sticking to your budget.
#5 Contingencies: A good budget always includes a little wiggle room. Call it the miscellaneous or emergency fund. When you make room for the unexpected, it’s not a stressful event when it happens.
Before you dive into the holiday season, take some time to prioritize and identify your goals. What does Christmas mean to you? Do your goals, plans and budget reflect that? If not, make adjustments. Christmas doesn’t have to be about giving gifts to everyone you know. It can be, but it can also be about family, vacations, or some well-deserved rest. You get to decide how you want to spend it and how much it costs you.
The holiday season is pending and you’re all set with a budget. Great! That puts you steps ahead of the majority of people. However, before you head out to begin your holiday shopping, let’s step back for a moment. You may have made some critical mistakes in your holiday budget. Identifying them ahead of time will save you stress in the long run.
#1 Buying the first item you see: Okay, so your kid wants the new gaming system. You’ve budgeted it and you know you can afford it. You head out to the big box electronics store to grab the item.
Stop! Have you done your research? Is this the cheapest you can get it for? Are there any promotions or online promotion codes that could save you money? Just because it fits your budget doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. You might be able to save money. Chances are, there will be a few surprises during this holiday season and a few bucks saved may come in handy.
#2 Not tracking your expenses: One of the most common mistakes people make when creating a budget is they don’t actually track how much they’ve spent. How will you know then if you’ve stayed on budget?
Your tracking system doesn’t have to be fancy. You can simply write at the top of a piece of paper how much you have to spend, who you have to buy for and then leave room to write down how much you’ve spent. Clip receipts to the paper so you can quickly do the math, and you’re set. Don’t walk out the door before actually creating a system to track your expenses.
#3 Not factoring in unforeseen expenses: It’s almost guaranteed that there are going to be some unexpected expenses during the holidays. If you don’t leave room in your budget for these expenses, they can put you into debt and cause stress. This is a season to enjoy, not to get stressed about. Create a miscellaneous expenses category in your budget and allocate some money toward it. That way, all your bases are covered.
#4 Pride and Ego: All too often we buy gifts to impress others. For example, that $500 bottle of wine you gave your boss as a hostess gift. There’s no need to do that. Your hostess would likely be just as happy with a lesser bottle of wine. It really is the thought that counts. Don’t let your pride and ego get you into hot water.
#5 Too much: It’s easy to go overboard during the holidays. Learn the value of scaling back. Buy your children three gifts this holiday instead of thirty. Scale back on the decorations and really focus on quality instead of quantity. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s easy to go over budget during the holidays. Take the time to make a plan and commit to sticking to it. Remember what the holidays mean to you and focus on that.