Christmas time is quickly approaching! And that means we are spending, spending, spending, and spending… then making last minute purchases. But your trusty team at Lily Wealth Management is bringing you five exciting ideas to save money this holiday season while still having a blast.
1. Say “NO” to special offers, up-sells, and extras
I am a sucker for special offers. I was reminded of my shortcomings this year when I was putting up our Christmas lights and I pulled out the zip ties to put the lights on our wrought iron fence. Four years ago, when I purchased the pack of zip ties, I paid $3 extra to go from 250 zip ties to 500. In four years I’ve used under 100 – meaning it will be more than 10 years from the day I purchased them before the $3 savings will begin to kick in. By the time I am done, my son will be in college. They got me. I thought of many other stupid up-sells I fell for:
Extra wrapping paper – I hate storing it and my wife hates to re-use the same design year after year.
Buy 2 get 1 candy-filled plastic candy canes – last year I thought it would be cute for this kids, but then I felt lame only giving them the candy. So, we bought them gifts anyway. I didn’t save any money, I just gave more gifts.
Buy 5 get 30% off wine – we buy more using the justification “it won’t go to waste.” But, after looking at the price per bottle and comparing it to Costco, we saved maybe $1 or so. Plus, we end up giving the bottles away and people bring wine to us and at the end of the season there is more on our baker rack than when we started. Save the couple of bucks and re-gift your wine for a net $0 game. That saves $15 - $50 bucks per bottle!!!
$2 here and $3 there can really add up, especially when you think about how many things you buy throughout the season. Stop and really think before you buy something. Remind yourself that up-sells only work because they are trying to get you to follow-thought with a certain behavior. Ask yourself if it’s necessary and if you will use it in this holiday season. Start a running tab of what you resisted.
2. Re-Imagine gifts for the family
Every year my parents and sister say we “won’t do presents…” and what do we do? We buy more and exchange things we don’t need. This is a good year to start a new tradition… talk to the parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. and agree to pull names from a hat, do a white elephant, have a Secret Santa, or if you’ve got a charitable family do a giving tree gift instead. I saw one family this year that did $100 gift card white elephant with a poem. That’s a nice gift, and if you only have to spend $100 for the whole family then it’s a good deal. Everyone ends up with something they can use.
Potlucks are an amazing way to save some serious money this holiday season. Cooking for 30 people can be so expensive and prepping the food can take a long time. Potluck fare may not be the best for your muffin tops, since most people bring their easy/convenient comfort food specials, but if you are coordinated, as the host, you can make sure everyone brings something different. Since the holidays are about making traditional foods and baking, this is a nice opportunity for everyone to contribute. If there will be a lot of people, consider having more people bring wine and beer, you’ll have it left over for gifts later on! If there are young family members or those who may not be able to afford a dish, ask them to plan some holiday games as their contribution.
4. Re-visit your childhood
When most of us grew up Christmas was a simpler time. There are so many things you can do that are free or cheap. Re-visit your favorite things that you used to do and share them with people in your life now. Here are some of my best childhood memories that don’t cost much…
Hot chocolate and a Christmas movie marathon, or a nightly tradition for a week. My favorites are Elf and a Christmas Story.
Driving around and looking at Christmas lights (more hot chocolate).
Cooking traditional or ethnic foods (pierogi assembly line for me!)
Santa at the mall. These days this can be so expensive I was shocked – so look on the internet (or apps like Facebook and Nextdoor) to see if there are any free ones in your neighborhood.
Christmas crafts with kids (could be as simple as paper snowflakes)
Sledding (Slight detail: snow is required for this one… but it’s usually a car ride away. Bring a picnic.)
5. Write it down
Budgets are important, but it has to be realistic or you will quickly abandon it. What I like to do at the holiday season is to make my budget and then double it. Things creep up – the company holiday party added a secret Santa, your boss gets you a gift and you feel obliged, you’re invited to a few holiday parties, and you forgot to put little Jack on the list.
But budgeting can be managed by also making a commitment not to buy too much. Going to the store with a list will save you hundreds per trip… you just have to stick with it. Only buy what you need, and make a list of what you save. It will be substantial. Do something good with some of that, like getting a gift for a needy family or sponsoring a single mom at your local pregnancy resource center and put the rest in your retirement account – you will need it for future Christmases.
Hope your holiday season is full of family, friends, love, and laughter. May you remember this year-end for years to come.