Christmas is a time for giving and sharing and expressing love and gratitude and being with family. Yes, it is. But all this love and sharing can also lead to a lot of over-spending. According to CBS moneywatch.com:
According to this year’s National Retail Federation holiday survey, the average American will spend close to $700 this season on gifts, cards, decorations, and the like.
If I convert this to my currency (Philippine Peso), that equates to around 30k PHP. WOW! That is a big, big, big amount to spend to feel the Christmas spirit. Now, I love Christmas and I am all for the gift-giving and the shopping. I love all the Christmas decor that comes up for the season. I love the window displays and the twinkling lights and all the multi-colored trees. But I make a conscious effort not to spend too much on Christmas, regardless of whether I have 30k or not. Here are some money saving tips that work. I know this because I’ve tried them.
1. Planning is the root of all saving.
Yes, I am a firm believer in planning. Ask anyone who knows me relatively well and they will tell you that I have a list for everything, I worship MS Excel, and my organizer is a perenial brick in my bag. I’ve found though that listing down the poeple you want to give gifts to, the gift you want to give (if you know this already), and your budget, all work to set your expectations and to keep to workable numbers.
2. Stick to the Plan.
Ok, you didn’t just go through all that effort of listing people and thnking about who would be on the list this year given your budget and who would just get some warm wishes on a pretty card, only to not follow it. As hard as it may appear, and as tough it may be to fight off the urge to get that perfect thing for your friend whom you haven’t seen or talked to in almost a year, RESIST!
3. Start Early.
In Manila, folks start Christmas shopping as early as September and October. I can see the collective eyebrows rising. There is a practical reason behind this over-exuberance. Items almost always become more expensive from November to the end of the year. This is true for most stores. We do have sales but these sales are often for items that aren’t as nice or as good or as up-to-date as others. You have to start shopping early on the first day of a sale in a shop to get the good stuff with slashed prices. Otherwise, you will be competing with a crush of people for so-so items. Usually, things that are non-perishable and aren’t dependent on size (like books, appliances, etc.) are still priced low or normal compared to Christmas prizes. You can also find a lot of variety in the months before the Holiday season. We aren’t limited by season so a lot of items are applicable all year round. You can also find a lot of bargain items in the bazaars that start springing up end of September onwards. These bazaars are different from stores in that they have often homemade items, rare items, unbranded but really good stuff and they compete with brand stores in price and try to beat them by offering good stuff at even lower prices, earlier. Shopping early can mean you are done with this way before the Christmas crush, still have a lot to choose from and not just the left-overs after the buying posse, and get items at normal or low prices.
4. Use discounts and gift cheques.
Discounts from stores you frequent or vendors you regulary go to, and using gift checques you’ve been given is one way to cut expenses. You aren’t actually spending at least the full amount here.
5. Do NOT use your Credit Card.
It may seem odd. It may be throwing a major kink in your Christmas budget plans. But using your Credit Card for shopping might just be the way to put you in debt for the next 12 months. I did this for one gift last year. I bought my son a big boy bike. I got in on installment, 6 months to pay. My goodness. I was still paying it off even after I had to get its flat wheel and busted breaks fixed. Never again.
6. Go for the Envelope Approach instead.
What is this? Well, it is simply putting your budget, in cash, in an envelope, ready for the days of shopping. You can allocate certain amounts for certain people as well. I like separating amount by indicating the person in colorful post-its and then separating by using paper clips. This way, you prepare your budget for the people you want to give gifts to this year; you aren’t in danger of over-spending on one person and not having enough for the rest; you do not go into credit debt.
7. Go Wholesale and/or Homemade.
If you have people in your list you feel have to be there, like groups of officemates, or your boss, doctor, dentist, etc. try going for wholesale products. What I do is I get 1 item for all my female officemates, like a pretty notebook, and 1 item for all my male officemates, like a nice money clip. This way you aren’t stressed out about having to think of forty unique, small gifts; you won’t be stressed over offending someone by maybe giving something “nicer” to someone else; you can get small stuff cheaper if you buy by bulk. Ok, maybe you can make an exception for your boss here.
On that note, what person wouldn’t like receiving something unique and from the heart? Seriously. So, instead of giving your boss a uniform gift, why not bake him a cake or your speciality pastry? Or you can give him something he can use like a hommade desk organizer. These are things that will cost you less than store-bought gifts because the individual ingredients or parts required cost a lot less put together. Plus, if it’s simple enough, not dangerous at all, and relatively fun to do, you can get your kids in on the action!
8. Finally, Be Prudent. If you really can’t afford a Santa sack this year, forego it. They will understand. Trust me.
Hey, times are hard for everyone. Sometimes, there are pressing matters that just require more attention and more of your resources. I’ve had a Christmas where I gave all my family and friends a nice photo calendar of myself and the kids with some warm holiday greetings instead of gifts becuase I just needed to allocate a Christmas budget for something else. I try to make sure my kids and god kids always have gifts, even small ones but I know the adults will understand.
So, I hope you all have fun and reasonable shopping trips over the next few days!