There is no secret that the “Most Wonderful” time of the year is also the most expensive time of the year. In 2019, families spent an average of over $1,000 on winter holidays! It is important to save money all year round, but the holidays are one of the most common times for people to overspend. We may try to plan and save for the upcoming weeks, but it is the unexpected expenses that cause the most damage. So, how can we spot those unexpected expenses before they sneak up on us? Today we will identify our expenses, plan a budget, and stick to it in order to avoid a financial hangover in January.
How to plan for unexpected gifts
Who has not experienced the horrifying, “oh shoot I totally forgot to get you a gift,” moment before? During this crisis, we quickly run to the nearest store and buy something last minute. Forgetting only a couple of people can make this unexpected expense skyrocket. There are two things that make these gifts so expensive: timing and guilt. Since you did not plan for this gift, you likely do not have coupons. In addition, the timing is so last minute you have probably already missed all the good sales. Our emotions do not help either. Our feeling of guilt may also push us to spend a little more money than we normally would. Sit down and make a list of who you need to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend on each person. Cross-check this list with someone in your family or a close friend. This will increase your chances of not forgetting someone.
Saving money on holiday decorations
For some people, decorating is the best part of the entire holiday season. The average consumer spends around $100 annually on decorations. Even if you do not plan to spend that much, it is estimated that at least 82% of consumers will buy at least one new decoration. There are a few ways to transform your home into a winter wonderland this year. Reusing old decorations is one solution. If you have decorations that are a little warn, you can usually fix them up with some hot glue and paint. You could purchase decorations on sale or from a discount store. Some of the best buys can be found after the holiday season when stores want to actively get rid of their merchandise. You can also make your own DIY Christmas decorations and DIY Thanksgiving decorations.
Spending less on baking/cooking supplies
It is easy to forget the expense behind the holiday cookies because they are so dang delicious, but the cost is definitely there. From hosting a dinner to bringing a bottle of wine to the party, it is easy for the grocery store to become a large portion of your holiday spending. You can avoid these last-minute expenses each week a few ways. Plan out your meals and create a menu with budget items in mind. Instead of hosting a party, you could attend friends’ parties. Offer to bring an affordable side dish, like cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, or dessert. If you want to save even more money, you could make a DIY hostess gift instead.
Decreasing spending on gift-wrapping supplies
Even if you are stock-piling wrapping paper, the overall cost can be expensive. We recommend buying a large roll of paper that will last you several years rather than buying multiple rolls that are cheap, but the rolls do not hold as any feet of paper. Not only will this save you money in the long run, the paper quality is usually much better. To plan ahead for next year, buy gift-wrap after the Holidays when it goes on sale. Also, do not forget that generic tape and other supplies works just as well as name-brand.
Avoid wasting money on self-gifting
Treating yourself is definitely not a crime, but do not blow your budget with tokens for yourself. Almost 57% of shoppers will buy themselves a gift in the process of holiday shopping. During this stressful time of year, it is hard to refuse buying something for yourself. After all, who knows what gift you want better than you? It can be really easy to be lured into purchasing a little something for yourself when you are surrounded by holiday deals. Make sure you are keeping your personal spending in check AND still purchasing the gifts that you planned to buy for others.
Cutting costs on greeting cards
Participating in the Holiday card tradition is great! Plan ahead for this added expense by creating your own cards or mailers online. Sites like Vistaprint and PS Print have pre-made templates. They can allow you to design your own holiday card. If you want something more generic, and not so personalized, you can also swing by a dollar store. Often times they have packs of 5-10 cards for $1. You can also send post cards instead. For some, postcards can be the best option because the postage costs less than for regular cards.
Reducing fare for travel and transportation
Airfare is obviously a huge expense here for those who have to travel long distances over the holidays. Booking your trip months ahead of time can reduce the expense slightly, but it is going to be expensive. Cut the additional costs by parking in economy parking or getting a ride to and from the airport. You can also avoid expenses by carrying on your luggage instead of checking your bags. If you need to travel by car, see if anyone would be down for carpooling. It is a social engagement before the holiday festivities. If others cover gas money, you can save a lot. Best of all, it cuts down on your expenses and your carbon emissions. If you have holiday parties to go to, carpooling is helpful there too. Carpooling has the same benefits as listed earlier. Plus, more people can have fun so long as one person is the designated sober driver. If one designated driver offers to chauffeur multiple people, it can help keep the streets safer.