The holidays are officially here. What better time to offer some money saving tips to help get you through this hectic season. No one wants to feel like Ebeneezer Scrooge, but according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, many Americans will spend up to $700 on holiday decorations, gifts, greeting cards, and food. And that’s a low figure! Most will spend three times that amount.
Do you want to save money this holiday season? Here are 25 money saving tips and 5 things you can do for free:
1. Discount Cards – Most grocery and drug stores have frequent shopper programs. You scan your card or key tag and are given instant savings. Bonus money saving tip: Many grocery stores offer free turkeys or hams if you spend a certain amount of money leading up to the holidays.
2. Social Media – Sites like Facebook often have Town pages. Here you can find one day only deals and discounts on everything from Christmas trees to restaurant meals right in your own town. Many small businesses are trying to get you to shop at their store this holiday so they are taking to social media sites to offer their specials.
3. Discount Codes – Sites like retailmenot.com and couponcode.com offer promotional codes to save on shipping or by offering a percentage off your entire order if you spend over a certain amount of money. These codes can be redeemed online as you are checking out.
4. Cash Back – Look for cards that have no annual fee and that offer you cash back. Capital One offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases and will pay $100 when you spend $500 in the first three months. Perfect for holiday shopping.
5. Pay with Cash – On the other hand, when you pay with cash you can easily track how much you are spending and won’t be tempted to overspend.
6. Group Gifts – Group gifts are ideal since the payout is small (usually between $5 and $20) but, depending on the amount of participants, the payoff can be rather large. Think of your child’s teacher who does not need one more Christmas ornament or #1 teacher mug. If everyone chips in just $5 you can get a pretty sizeable gift card.
7. Send Postcards Instead of Expensive Holiday Cards – Holiday cards have gotten way out of hand. And that’s not even the cost of mailing them! Holiday postcards with a photo of the family are very popular. You’ll also save on stamps since postcard stamps are cheaper. Bonus money saving tip, hand deliver if you can.
8. Use Children’s Artwork for Wrapping Paper – Wrapping paper is a necessary evil. Gift bags have gotten very popular over the past several years. And much more expensive. Why not have the kids draw pictures on butcher paper and use them to wrap your gifts? It’s thoughtful and much cheaper than anything you can get at Hallmark.
9. Buy Decorations at Season’s End – It never fails. You pay full price for the 6 ft. tall singing Santa and the day after Christmas they slash the price in half. Many retailers offer holiday decorations at deep discounts beginning December 26th. Think ahead and purchase your decorations for the following year.
10. Go to More Than One Grocery Store for the Best Bargains – Every town has multiple grocery stores. And every store sends out a weekly circular highlighting their sales. Buy the butter on at store ‘A’ and flour and sugar on sale at store ‘B.’ If you spend enough at both stores you may be eligible for more than one free turkey!
11. Set a Budget and Stick to it – This one is easier than you might imagine. Decide ahead of time how much money you are willing to spend and really stick to it. It will make you look harder for the best deals. Make a game out of it! Whoever finds the best deal wins!
12. Homemade Gifts – Everyone has a hidden talent. Be it baking, knitting, drawing, or what have you. Homemade gifts, especially food gifts, are greatly appreciated. It really is the thought that counts.
13. Whittle Down the Christmas Gift List – Gift giving has gotten a little out of hand. Do you find yourself buying gifts for your second cousins who you only see once a year? Or have you gotten into the gift giving habit with acquaintances? No one wants to be the one to say, ‘enough is enough,’ but you might be surprised. Consider this money saving tip. When you choose to forgo the gifts and instead choose spend time with one another you are giving everyone a break.
14. Take a Family Vacation Instead of Spending on Food, Gifts, Entertaining – A cruise to warmer climates. A ski vacation in Colorado. If you take all the money you would normally spend on your typical holiday and instead put it towards a vacation you are relieving stress in multiple ways. No one to shop for. No holiday cooking or baking. And to top it off you get a week of relaxation. It isn’t for everyone, but it might be fun to try.
15. Give Gifts of Service – A great money saving tip is to offer services that people normally pay for. Run errands for elderly relatives. Do dishes for your mom when she’s had a tough day. Voluntarily rake the yard. Give handmade gift cards for back rubs. The possibilities are endless.
16. Pot luck Christmas Dinner – It shouldn’t have to be up to just one person to plan and prepare an entire meal for 20 people. The host can provide the main course and everyone else brings a side dish, an appetizer, dessert, or wine.
17. Outlet Shopping – Outlet malls are a fantastic way to save money this holiday. Starting on Black Friday and leading up to the day itself, many outlet malls offer deep discounts on brand name items.
18. Save on Wine by Buying in Bulk – Whether you are drinking it or are giving it away as a gift, many liquor stores offer discounts when you purchase wine by the case. Some even let you mix different varieties of the same brand.
19. Consider an Artificial Tree – Christmas trees, like fresh flowers, have a short lifespan. Once they are cut they usually only last a few weeks. With most fresh trees going for anywhere from $25 upwards of $100 it may be time to think about investing in an artificial tree. The newest artificial trees are very lifelike and many are pre-lit. Even if your initial investment is $200 the tree will more than pay for itself within the first few years. And these beauties last forever!
20. Shop Alone – It never fails. You’re at the mall or the grocery store and are met with cries of, ‘I want that!’ Leave the kids at home when you shop. You will be amazed at how much money you will save.
21. Buy Some Presents After the Holiday. If you aren’t going to see your friends or family on the day itself you can take advantage of post-holiday sales on everything from clothing to electronics.
22. Recycle Last Year’s Holiday Outfit – The world will not end if you wear the same dress two years in a row. Most people won’t even notice.
23. Compare Prices at Store – Many stores now offer a same price guarantee. If you find it cheaper at another store you can return your item to the original point of purchase and get the difference back.
24. Don’t Buy More Than You Need – Why shop for 50 when you are only having 10 people over? No one likes to run out of food (or alcohol) during the holidays, but scaling your list down just a little bit may save you lots of money in the long run.
25. Don’t Buy for Yourself – Better yet, make your own wish list. And share it with everyone!
Five things you can do for free
1. Christmas Caroling – Get a group of friends together and stroll through the streets of your town. You may even get invited in for a cup of cocoa.
2. Holiday Concert – Check your local high school for their holiday concert schedule. Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like 60 teenagers singing ‘Silent Night.’
3. Elf on a Shelf – OK, not exactly free, but the fun you will get will more than make up for the initial purchase price. It doesn’t matter how old your children are, seeing an Elf zip line down your banister is just plain good fun.
4. Community Christmas Lighting – Many towns have tree lighting ceremonies complete with hot cider and caroling. Check your local paper for a list of holiday events.
5. Drive Around to see the Holiday Lights – Holiday Lights are becoming quite competitive. Many blink in time to music. Take a drive around your neighborhood and see which display is the best. You could even send the winners a note telling them how much you enjoyed their holiday spirit.
There are so many ways you can save money this holiday. Hopefully these tips will help ease some of the stress of the season. Spend time with one another. Sit around the dinner table telling stories of holidays past. Enjoy every minute. Happy Holidays to one and all!
By Mary Kay Love
Good to Know