Holiday spending often makes it tough to save money. The expenses can be numerous: presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, food, and travel, to name a few. With a little bit of creativity you can get through the holiday season without draining your wallet.
Why spend $75 to buy a scarf if you can knit it yourself with $15 of yarn? Making your own gifts is a great way to save. Supplies usually cost less than the finished product. Not only are homemade gifts cheaper, but many people appreciate them more than store-bought gifts because of the effort that goes into making them.
Not an experienced crafter? No problem. Writing a letter describing what the person means to you or framing a memorable photo are ways to give personalized gifts without having to break out a glue gun. Baking is another option that is easy for most people to do. Standard cookies or brownies can be dressed up with sprinkles and ribbons in holiday colors.
Offering your services is a great cost-saving gift, since it only costs time. Offer a free night of babysitting to your sister with three kids or a month of lawn-mowing to your parents. Think about what service you want to offer, and create a coupon that the recipient can redeem at a later date.
Now that you have taken the time to choose economical gifts, you probably do not want to spend $50 wrapping them. Skip the fancy wrapping paper and bows, and look around the house to see what you can use. Do you have a newspaper? (The comic section is really the only acceptable choice.) How about paper shopping bags or old gift bags? All of these can be used in place of buying new supplies. Use glitter and paint to decorate plain surfaces to liven up your wrapping.
It is not uncommon for store cards to cost $4 a piece – or more. If you sent cards to 20 people, that would cost you $80, not including postage. Creating your own cards can help you save, but resist the temptation to buy the pricey supplies that pepper the scrapbook aisles of craft stores. If you create and send cards electronically, you avoid spending money completely. You can make your own or use one of the many free services online. If sending electronic cards is not your thing, consider trimming your mailing list. You can probably skip sending cards to your third grade teacher and the second cousin who you never see.
Like with gift-wrapping, you can avoid buying decorations by seeing what is lying around the house. Making garland out of popcorn is a classic holiday decoration. Pine cones and acorns – available in abundance in New England – provide a perfect seasonal touch. If you are really craving store-bought decorations, consider waiting until after the holidays to buy. Most stores will be selling them at a deep discount, and you can use them next year.
If you host holiday dinners or parties, you may find yourself spending a significant amount of money on food. Potluck dinners are an easy way to shift the burden of buying all of the food off of you. However, if you do not want to ask your guests to bring food, there are other options. Consider eliminating a full dinner and just providing appetizers and desserts or avoiding expensive items, like meat and wine. Often bulk stores are cheaper than regular supermarkets, but not always, so make sure you do your research before heading out to shop.
Airfare is generally more expensive during the holidays, since that is when everyone flies. If you want to celebrate with far away family, why not have a “holiday” dinner during an off-peak time of the year, when airfare is cheaper? Whenever you fly, being flexible can usually help you save – you probably won’t have to spend as much if you fly at night or have a layover.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. By being creative with your purchasing and not straining your finances you can celebrate the holidays without stress. Well, not as much stress.
Written by or adapted from an article by BALANCE. All rights reserved.