Oh, yes, it is indeed that time of year! As the leaves begin to change and the store aisles fill with Christmas decor, we’re reminded that the holiday season is right around the corner. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably already getting anxious worrying about the cost of holiday shopping and entertaining. It’s crazy, amirite?! That’s why we’re giving you a helping hand today, to lessen that stress and make sure you, ya know, actually enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!
- Make a list, check it twice and follow a budget. Okay, so, it’s not exactly like Jolly Old St. Nick, but this is most important when it comes to not putting yourself into debt this holiday season. You don’t want to go overboard or you’ll be paying for it well into the new year or the year after, so on and so forth…damn you, debt cycle! You need to set your budget and prioritize those on your list with a certain amount allotted for each person. Yes, of course, your children and their respective wish lists are likely your priority, so put them at the top, but remember don’t go overboard! You have others to shop for too. We know our parents and siblings would still give us the evil eye if we shorted them. If your house is the house for the holidays, it would serve you well to set an entertaining budget too. We all know how much a few trips to the grocery store can cost during the month of December. Get chills just thinking of it…so, as the Boy Scouts say, be prepared! You can also get creative with your menu. After all, Christmas Eve doesn’t have to mean expensive seafood items, although who doesn’t love lobster; it’s more about spending the time with those you love. But just in case your family doesn’t share that same sentiment, make a list, check it twice and stick to your budget!
- See what can be eliminated from your list. Ok, now the hardest part! We challenge you to eliminate one or two items from your shopping list – gifts, entertaining, or anything else you’re planning to spend on. Ready, set go! Can’t decide? Maybe we can help. Let’s ask the tough questions! Like, do you really need to send Aunt Pearl that fruit basket this year? Does she even have any teeth left? Rude, maybe, but seriously do you need to do it? How about skipping your traditionally-big New Year’s Eve out this year in lieu of a quiet dinner at home? Wild, right? But, hear us out. Skipping NYE out on the town will save you a ton (like a lot of tons!). You won’t need to spring on the dinner, a new outfit because ladies can you go out in something you already own? Of course not! Perhaps, you’ll need to pony up for a babysitter as well; the list goes on and on! By eliminating things, you’ll put a little more jingle back in your pocket! Oh, the last thing, once you’ve tweaked that list, be sure to stick to it. No adding on later…yeah, you know who you are!
- Start early! This goes for both saving and It’s never too early, nor too late to start saving for your holiday shopping and entertaining needs, with something like, oh, we don’t know, say a club account, from your favorite Credit Union! Credit union club accounts are the ideal way to save for the holidays or really any reason at all if we’re being honest. Starting early goes for your shopping as well. Little gifts that appear to be the perfect items for loved ones on your list can be purchased throughout the year. Just be sure to keep an eye out for return policies in case those perfect items need to go back, or worse you forget you bought them in the first place! That’s the true story of how we once got double the presents one year. Thanks, mom! But seriously, procrastinating on your shopping will only cause you to panic and overspend, and you don’t need that headache when January rolls around, so start now!
- Scale back. As Americans, not overdoing it isn’t our strong suit, but we can at least try, no? Couldn’t eliminate an entire family’s worth of gifts from your shopping list, then how about one family gift instead of four individual ones? See, we got this! An activity they can all do together would be ideal as well. Or perhaps, a gift certificate to their favorite pizza joint and a movie theatre or Fandango gift certificate would probably be much appreciated by the recipients! It would help save them money as well. Rinse and repeat until you’ve trimmed that list down! #thatshowitsdone
- Say yes to regifting. Taboo to some, we know, but as the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! So, maybe that new Cuisinart set you got last year was your third one and has been sitting in your closet unopened with no plans in sight to change that. Your sister-in-law may just need and love that as a gift. Think about it, makes sense, right?! Another great item to re-gift is unused or unwanted (it happens, don’t @ us!) gift cards. Because, perhaps you can’t eat at that trendy new restaurant due to dietary restrictions, or maybe, the hipster boutique isn’t exactly your personal style; it’s okay, don’t waste it, regift it! It might just make an ideal gift for your dog sitter or child’s teacher. Don’t feel guilty, just regift it!
- Comparison shop. Technology is a great thing, especially when it comes to saving big bucks! There are a host of websites and apps out there to help you with coupons, rebates on spending and other fantastic deals! As is custom, here are some of our favs:
Have a go-to we haven’t listed? Let us know!
- Get creative with your gift giving. Remember Pinterest? Well, it’s still around and it can be a great source of inspiration for handcrafted holiday gifts! Everything from homemade candies, baked goods and flavored oils to holiday ornaments, woodcraft and so much more can be crafted inexpensively for many of your gift giving needs. At the very least, you could maybe grab an idea or two of what to buy, if your craftier side isn’t exactly getting the job done.
- Negotiate group gifting. So, you and your co-workers or neighbors exchange every year and honestly, it’s getting out of hand. We feel your pain. Like, no, we really don’t need another mug of your kids’ faces, Karen! But, we digress. Yes, it’s fun to open gifts, but it may be time to put the brakes on the spending for everyone’s sake (and sanity). Seriously, how many ‘mugs of mugs’ can you give before the joke dies? If you’re feeling the pinch, likely, so is everyone else. Luckily, there are a few solutions. You can put a cap on spending and keep it low. For instance, $10 for each person, rather than the $25 you’ve been spending. Better yet, do a Secret Santa gift exchange. This works well for large families, groups of friends and co-workers. Draw names and put a dollar amount on the gift; remember to keep it low. It keeps the fun in your gift exchange with only one gift to purchase. It even adds a new layer of excitement, as you won’t know until you get your gift who purchased it. Finally, if you really can’t afford this holiday tradition, talk to the group and suggest forgoing gifts altogether. You can still get together and enjoy each other’s company, but without putting an unnecessary dent in your holiday budget!
- Research the deals before the big shopping days. We see all of the big deals coming our way on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it begs the question, are they really deals? Some certainly are, others not so much. Don’t be the black sheep of Black Friday (or Dark Grey Thursday, if you’re one of those people) shopping! If there’s something out there you really want and a retailer is offering it at a rock bottom price, then by all means, brave the early hours and the crowds and go out and get it! Just be sure to comparison shop online first, so you know that deal is really as great as advertised! Trust us, we work in marketing and advertising, it is not always as it seems, so buyer be warned.
- Don’t get suckered into buying extended warranties. We’ve all been there. You’re paying for your item and the sales clerk is really pressuring you into purchasing an extended warranty. They’re telling you as many stories as the day is long about what could go wrong and why you, 100% absolutely must buy the warranty. Ugh! Remember, that sales clerk is likely getting well compensated for that warranty sale, they aren’t asking out of the goodness of their heart, sadly. Most importantly, you probably don’t need it. Many items that need a warranty already come with a year’s worth of coverage for free. Paying for the item with your credit card may increase the warranty automatically as well. Also, any repairs that may eventually need to be made may cost less than the warranty itself! Check out your credit card perks and see if you get any warranty extensions before you start shopping. And after you get home, check out the manufacturer to see if they have anything. Chances are, it’s cheaper than the retailers…sorry, Target, but facts are facts.
Christmas can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these 10 tips and keep your inner Grinch from making an unwanted appearance this year!
If you do happen to find yourself down to the wire with no money in your budget for gifts, and there’s no way around the spending, allow us to help! Choice One Community Credit Union has a few solutions. Our no annual fee VISA credit card and our low-interest personal loans and lines of credit, for example! Call toll-free at (800) 610-2788 or stop by any of our three, conveniently-located branches today!
Not yet a member? Joining is easy, check out more on how to make the best financial decision of your life here! https://choiceone.org/membership/become-a-member/