The most expensive holiday of the year is fast approaching! Well, okay, Valentine’s Day might be worse if you don’t do a lot of gift-giving around Christmas but happen to be in a relationship. Either way, we’ll focus on your average person, who is likely hemorrhaging money this close to Christmas. If that sounds like you, then you’re in luck! We’ve racked our brains and pieced together a list of the six easiest ways that you can save your greenbacks during this most anti-economic of seasons.
Create a budget, and stick to it
This is probably the most important advice we can possibly give anybody looking to save money, whether it’s around the holidays or during the rest of the year. For most people, it can be very, very easy to just blow through an entire paycheck a few dollars at a time: a burger here, a movie there, some extras at the grocery store—so on and so forth ’til you’ve frittered away hundreds of dollars on impermanent, unsatisfying crap and you’re wondering how on earth you’re gonna make rent or pay the utilities on time.
To avoid this trap, your best bet is to sit down and carve out a budget. Calculate how much money you make in an average week or month, list your hard expenses—you may have to list some as values between x and y, such as $40 to $60 for groceries, etc.—and then avoid spending any money that’s not listed on that budget. Adhering to the budget is, obviously, the most important part of this process.
Two important budget categories may be: savings and fun. Putting a little bit of each check back into savings will help with long-term emergencies, and having a “fun” category will limit how much money you feel allowed to burn on frivolous activities in a given week or month, thus giving you some wiggle room to enjoy life.
If you find that gift-giving can be a little too expensive for you throughout Christmas, you might consider talking among your friend group and with your family members and reaching an agreement on a hard limit for the price of gifts. This ensures that everybody knows exactly how much is being spent at max, and won’t feel bad about not being able to dish out hundreds on gifts for everybody they know.
Have a potluck
If you’re the type to host Christmas dinner for your friends and family, it could be a good idea to try a potluck this year. Rather than spending tons and tons of cash on all the food yourself, each invited friend or family member can bring a dish, and before long you’ll have a whole Christmas feast prepared as a group effort! Just make sure to coordinate among each other so that nobody brings multiples of any dish.
Keep an eye on sales
Using various coupon services or picking up local sales catalogues are a fantastic way to spend a little less than you have to around the holidays. Sales typically go through the roof near widely-celebrated holidays, so this can be a great time to save a bundle on stuff you’re already planning to get.
Beware credit cards
Shopping on credit can be fun and liberating, but do bear in mind that you have to pay the card off at the end of the month, lest you ruin your credit. Using your credit card to pick out gifts can be an excellent way to build credit on interest, but ultimately, you shouldn’t spend any credit that you can’t afford to pay back in actual money at the end of the month.
Take a vacation
This is a little shady, but if you want to avoid a bunch of expensive traditions, you might consider getting away for the holiday. A lot of cruises, tours and hotels offer really spectacular deals close to Christmas—because they’re hurting for business, naturally—and you can’t participate in Christmas outings and spend money you shouldn’t if you’re relaxing on a beach on the other side of the world!
There are our six tips for saving money during the holiday season! We hope they help you stretch your dollars, and we hope you have happy holidays!