“Christmas is not an emergency.” -Dave Ramsey
Back when I was working, my husband and I were living on two incomes. Finances were not a problem. When Christmas would roll around, we would “set a budget” then blow through it. There always seemed to be other people to add to the list of who we “needed” to buy presents for. The gifts we wanted to get family members were always just a little more than we had budgeted for each person. Finally, we’d get close to Christmas and panic if we still had some Christmas shopping to do. The budget got thrown out the window as we desperately just needed to find something to get those last few people.
Now that reality has set in (1 income, 1 kiddo) we are learning to approach Christmas differently. We need to make a plan and stick to it! Last year, we did pretty good. This year, I’m hoping we do even better!
Here are a few tips to help you be smart with your money as you get ready to start your Christmas shopping!
Plan ahead. We like to take a chunk of our tax refund each year and save for Christmas. If that’s not possible for you, try setting aside a little money each month during the year. It’s not easy, but neither is getting a huge credit card bill in January!
Make a list of who you will be buying Christmas presents for this year. Use this free downloadable Christmas Gift Planner! At the top, write down the total amount of money you are able to spend. Then, divide up that amount among the people on your list. The numbers given to each person are MAXIMUM amounts to spend on each person. If you find them the perfect gift, but it’s under the amount you planned, that’s okay! High five for you!
If you can, plan out presents early. I already know I will be getting my daughter a crayon electric toothbrush for her stocking. (She gasped when she saw it at Target!) I have a few weeks left to keep an eye out for it to go on sale. Make your list, then check for it to go on sale every week!
Don’t spend just your cash! Are you using any online programs that give you free gift cards? I currently use Ibotta and Swagbucks. (Not sponsored.) No, I don’t make a ton of money off of them, but the gift cards I get from them will help purchase a few gifts!
Start shopping early. I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but if you see something that would be a great Christmas present that’s on sale, GET IT NOW! I was able to get some friends’ kids super cute jammies for just $5.50 at Costco last week! They are so cute, they match, and the price was perfect.
Use your rewards cash on gifts until Christmas. Today I got a $10 gift card to Pier One from T-Mobile Tuesdays! I’m going to go and see if there’s anything I could get as a gift for someone! (If not, a goodie for me!) If you get free cash from store loyalty programs (I often get $5 or $10 gift cards from DSW or Kohl’s), use it for presents this month and next!
Put items in your Amazon shopping cart now. They will let you know if and when it goes on sale! It’s okay if you don’t end up purchasing them.
Buy gifts in bulk. We have a group of friends that we exchange gifts with-4 adults to get gifts for. Usually I get each couple a gift-like a decoration for their home or dinnerware. Groupon often has great gifts that come in packs of 2 or 4. (Just watch out for shipping costs on Groupon.) Last year we got everyone personalized hot plates wrapped with some brownie mix! This year, Costco has a pack of 4 Starbucks mugs for just $16. They are nice mugs and I think I will fill them with some homemade cookies! Which brings me to my next idea…
Bake something! Find a really good sugar cookie or toffee recipe and give those as gifts! I recommend giving those gifts out early in December before everyone is sick of sweets! 😉 These are especially good for friends who you don’t feel you need to purchase a gift for, but want to still know you’re thinking about them.
It’s the thought that counts, not the price tag. Sometimes, you get a great deal on a gift. I mean GREAT. Don’t feel you need to get everyone in your family a gift that costs X amount of money. Get them something they will love. If it was a steal, good for you!
Don’t buy everyone and their mother gifts. It’s not necessary! If you want to show someone you are thinking about them or appreciate them, write them a nice note or bake them a treat. Not everyone you know needs a pricey gift from you!
Make something! This one is tricky. You aren’t a 7 year old who can make anyone anything and they will love it. Be careful with this tip. If you can make something that you know a friend will LOVE, go for it! Just make sure you aren’t spending days making something that will end up in the trash. 😉
Use photo gifts! I’m a huge fan of Shutterfly’s weekly freebies. You can get personalized puzzles, mugs, posters, decks of cards, ornaments…for just the cost of shipping. Yes, the cost of shipping would be ridiculous if you weren’t getting the item for free, but if you figure you can spend $9 for a personalized mug with your child’s face on it for grandma, it’s a great price! Sign up for their emails. The freebies are usually sent out over the weekend.
Don’t spend a ton of money on gift wrapping supplies. I like to reuse bags we got from pervious years. If a gift would be better wrapped, get some butcher paper or use paper bags! Go on Pinterest and get some ideas for how to make simple brown wrapping look adorable! Plus, you can use the same brown paper on gifts throughout the year that aren’t for Christmas. As for present tags, there are a ton of cute, free downloads on Pinterest like these cuties!
The bottom line-Christmas is about celebrating with our loved ones. This shouldn’t make you spend money you don’t have on those loved ones who will love you even if you don’t get them something. Whew! Be thoughtful with your gifts while being smart with your money.
What are some ways you save money over the holidays?! Share them in the comments section below! 🙂