According to the National Retail Federation, this year we’re going to shell out about $1,048, upping our year-end holiday spending by 4% compared with last year. NRF says “consumers will spend in three main categories during the holidays – gifts for family, friends and co-workers, at an average $658.55; non-gift holiday items such as candy and food, decorations, greeting cards and flowers at $227.26; and other non-gift purchases that take advantage of the deals and promotions throughout the season at $162.02.”
And those are just averages. Many people spend much more than those totals. I know I spend more than $227 on food and beverages for the celebrating we do at home between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve—and don’t get me started on gifts.
If you’re into the fun stuff that goes along with every holiday—participating in St. Paddy’s Day parades, the dyeing of easter eggs, taking in fireworks displays or simply the glow of your home bedecked with garlands, poinsettias and a bauble-adorned tree or glowing menorah—just about once a month your spending goes above and beyond your routine.
Making it all happen—whether each holiday or just the biggies—requires extra moolah, no matter how you slice and dice it.
It doesn’t have to mean, however, blowing your budget and all of your hard-earned and thoughtfully-saved money.
I’m here to help you figure out how to cut through unnecessary spending, so you can maximize your resources, time, and holiday cheer!
Here’s how to keep your holiday spending on point in 2019:
1. Don’t try to do it all.
It’s easy to get sucked into the notion that you can and should “do it all” for each and every holiday. This applies to decorations, yard displays, fireworks shows, gift-giving, meals, beverages, your invite list. A grander scale means more moolah out of your pocket. Not only is pursuing those myths you see on Pinterest, magazine covers and morning shows a drain on your energy and your bank account, doing everything to the hilt simply isn’t possible.
In other words, if one year you host Christmas for your extended family, let someone else do it the next year. If you did the July Fourth neighborhood BBQ this year, pass the baton next year. And no matter what you do, delegate, delegate, delegate. Let your guests help.
2. Set a budget for the holidays.
The exercise of thinking through what matters to you holiday-wise, and figuring out what that means for each holiday and your spending requirements will help you be more conscious about your finances. It’ll inform whether you need to revise your plans and will get you thinking about how to set aside funds.
3. Start saving into a holiday-dedicated “bucket.”
Create an account, or at least a mental column on your “savings ledger” where you’ll set aside holiday money. This way, you can watch your money accumulate.
4. Make buying lists.
The point is to have these in your phone about six weeks before the holidays so you can buy as you go and lessen the impact on your budget. Ideally, lists also allow you to minimize your number of trips to the store, in turn reducing the opportunity to purchase more than you need. For each dinner or celebration, I capture everything I can think of that will go into the party.
5. Do it DIY.
You know you want an excuse to hop on Pinterest with a mission. You’re probably well aware of the magic you find by searching any holiday + “DIY.” The key advice: choose carefully as not every idea is necessarily low-cost or easy, especially if you’re DIY-ing a party or your entire holiday celebration.
6. DI2H, aka do it second-hand.
Think of all the money you can save if you decide to do all the non-food items second hand — you can even thrift your gifts. Plus, think about how much fun you could have if you decide to narrow it further to “only garage sales” or “only flea markets.” This requires a lot of lead time, particularly for those living in areas where cold, wet and freezing weather limit the season for yard sales. Although, you can always go digital with apps such as Offer Up or Poshmark.
Regardless of what type of second-hand venue, when you have buying lists in hand, you’re on a treasure hunt. And the people who receive your gifts will enjoy the story of the adventure it took to find their special items.
7. Buyer beware.
Shopping for nonperishables when the retailers least expect it lets you scoop up great savings. This usually means buying on the holiday or immediately following the holiday. Consider yourself way ahead of the ball and set aside your items for the following year. If you do buy particular items in the weeks leading up to the holiday, expect to pay premium for any types of inventory stocked particularly for the holiday.
8. Do a holiday swap meet.
A swap meet creates a free or low-cost shopping experience where you find gifts, holiday decor and other supplies. Invite your friends and neighbors (if you have room for a large crowd, tell everyone to invite their friends and neighbors too — the more the merrier). Have everyone cull things they no longer want or need that are suitable as gifts and/or holiday decor. You may also want to consider helping organize a swap at someone else’s home or a neutral location, such as a church.
Fringe benefits: upcycling means using less natural resources, less waste in the landfill and everyone gets to clear their closets.
9. Question the notion of gifts altogether
Is the practice of giving gifts of “things” actually working? Gift can be the largest category of spending. It can also seriously undercut your savings goals, not to mention that it might not necessarily be aligned with the mentality of your loved ones.
One way to ease the burden is only buying gifts when you see or know of an item that your loved one simply won’t be able to live without. Other times you may know of something you can gift that the recipient truly needs. Otherwise, why not just cut through the clutter and simply give the gift of time? You can tailor your gifts of time to the interests and needs of your the people on your list.
One thing I’m thinking of doing this year is giving my mom “time bucks,” ie. little certificates I’ll make that guarantee her my time in 2.5- or 5-hour increments for helping her around the house. I know she could use help unpacking the last of her boxes from a move this summer. And she also would like to do a garage sale come spring. The last thing she needs is a thing I go find and deem necessary for her already full house.
And with that, we can move along to the holiday-specific action items. I just can’t help but share some money-saving, yet festive ideas for making the holidays great:
Ways to save money for every single holiday
Valentines Day on a very tight budget:
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to show your favorite people how much they mean to you. Celebrate love, but avoid emptying your bank account, with one of these inexpensive Valentine’s Day ideas from Part-Time Money. Also, a while back, the Art of Simple posted “9 frugal Valentine’s Day gift ideas,” which is packed with thoughtful, inexpensive to free suggestions for how to “treat” your Valentine. The possibilities are still just as great as when they posted the blog.
St. Patrick’s Day the frugal way:
Even if you’re not Irish, why not wear green (not to mention save some green) and get festive with these 12 inexpensive ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re feeling crafty, here are 17 easy St. Patrick’s Day crafts from HGTV--you might even have some of the craft supplies already available. For even more family fun, check out these cute and inexpensive ideas from Miss Frugal Fancy Pants.
Make Easter easier on your wallet:
You can have an egg-cellent Easter celebration, and keep your nest egg in good shape. (Okay, enough dad jokes for this week…) Fabulessly Frugal’s “10 Easy and Frugal DIY Easter Decorations” has great ideas for simple items the whole family would have fun creating. Dollar Stretcher has lots of suggestions for ways to repurpose items for Easter baskets.
Celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day without breaking the bank:
What could be more valuable to your parents than time with you? This coupon idea for giving the gift of time is taken to a professional level by Skip to my Lou: See the downloads for coupon books for both moms and dads on their designated days. If you’re looking for inexpensive gifts you can make, check out Frugal Beautiful for mom and a post of five ideas for dad.
BBQ and savings for you — Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day:
If you’re going to be at home for these three-day weekends and are looking to do a BBQ with a few friends and neighbors, Thrifty Frugal Mom has a few good suggestions. Deal News also has some ideas worth checking out. For July Fourth, enhance the festivities with a couple of these great recipes for fun red, white and blue foods from The Budget Mom.
No tricks, all budget treats for Halloween
Don’t get spooked by the cost of Halloween celebrations. Frugal Confessions did a blog all about how the author hosted a party $3.46 per guest! It’s a great story chock full of useful ideas. America Saves has a great post, “15 Frighteningly Frugal Halloween Costumes,” with super cute and creative options for kids and adults.
Spend wisely for the winter holidays — Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas
Frugal and DIY possibilities for the winter holidays are infinite. But I found a few posts with some especially great ideas. The first is all about upcycling items as gift packaging. One year I actually did a couple of the table topper ideas in this post and my guests were really impressed! Last but not least, here’s a bevvy of possibilities for anyone after frugal stocking stuffers.
New Year, same smart spending:
New Year’s is all about the celebration of a clean slate. It means festivities on the eve of the first day of the year and on the first day itself. Many, if not most, cultures have nuances around their New Year’s celebrations. We Americans have a number of traditions for New Years, including a Champagne toast and a meal for good luck that is actually a Southern tradition for good fortune. You may as well get your savings strategy rolling with a bit of good luck, right?
There you have it. My best tips and advice for the festive person looking to maintain some semblance of normal spending all through the holidays.
Now, with your suggestions and how-tos, we can keep the thread going...