I love the fall and the beginning of winter because that means it is time for the holiday season.
I don’t know if it is because I always enjoyed the holidays as a kid or just because it is a fun environment, but I always look forward to the holidays.
Unfortunately, many people dread the holidays because they are just now paying off their debt they incurred from last year’s holiday season.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid going into debt for the holidays again.
If you haven’t already started saving money for the holidays in advance, you could start now. Sadly, it may be too little too late.
However, there are still many things you can do now to cut down the cost of the holidays to avoid going into debt.
Set Expectations for Gifts
The holidays are synonymous with gift giving for many families. Sadly, this is the result of the commercialization of the holidays. Fortunately, you can guard your finances simply by setting expectations of gift giving ahead of time.
If you’ve decided to cut back in the gift giving department this year, simply let others know that this won’t be a big holiday season for you this year. This way, others won’t feel obligated to get you a gift simply because you normally get them one.
If you have kids, try to make the holidays more about time spent with family. Come up with fun free activities for the kids to look forward to and take the emphasis off of the giant piles of gifts they get each holiday season.
Start Making Homemade Gifts
Another great way to cut back on your holiday giving costs is to start making homemade gifts now. Many homemade gifts take a bit of time to put together, so you really need to get started as far in advance as possible.
Many homemade gifts can be inexpensive to make. Just make sure any gift you make will serve a purpose to the person you are giving it to. That way, the personal touch will count for more than any gift you could have bought off of the shelf.
Suggest A Secret Santa
If things are really tight with your finances this year, consider asking friends and family to do a Secret Santa gift exchange. Put the names of everyone who will participate in a hat and have each person draw one name out. Now you only have to buy a gift for the person whose name you draw.
Make sure to set a gift price limit so people don’t get offended when they spend $250 on their recipient but you can only spend $50 on yours. Many families like setting a small limit, such as $20, to see how creative people can get. The limit is up to you, but set one to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Make it clear that this year you’ll only be buying a gift for your Secret Santa recipient and you shouldn’t have to worry about feeling obligated to buy gifts for others.
While this may not be an option for all families, if you at least establish this for some of your normal circles of friends, it could be a big money saver.
Tone Down Holiday Meals or Have A Potluck
One big expense that many people forget to budget is the holiday meal expense. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, your food budget can explode quickly.
Instead of having three big meals and parties in the span of just five or six weeks, consider toning a couple of your major meals and just make one meal the highlight of the season.
Alternatively, if you still want to have the traditional large meals at each holiday, consider asking everyone to chip in for a potluck style meal. This way, everyone can help spread the cost out. Additionally, everyone can make sure their favorite food or version of that food is included in the holiday meal.
Hopefully you can use these tips to cut down the costs of the holidays a bit if you haven’t started saving yet. Next year, you can start saving as soon as the calendar hits New Year’s day to be completely prepared for whatever holiday season expenses you want to incur.
One year of a toned down holiday season probably won’t even be remembered, so do yourself a favor and don’t go into debt this holiday season.
What are some creative ways you’ve saved money around the holidays so you don’t go into debt? Do you have any awesome suggestions I didn’t include above? Make sure to leave any ideas in the comments below.
Photo by: LadyDragonflyCC – >;< Text added by: Lance Cothern