Practical ways to live better on less.
1. Stay organized. Having a clearly organized game plan & budget will help prevent overspending. Write down who you need to buy for, your target price range, and gift ideas at least several weeks in advance. This will help keep you on budget.
2. Skip office grab bags/Secret Santas. There is no need to join every single holiday grab bag. Only exchange gifts with close family and friends to cut down drastically on holiday shopping expenses.
3. Shop on Black Friday. Yes, the stores can be hectic, however, you will benefit with major discounts. Search through all the ads and mark down which items are on your holiday shopping list. Don’t buy just because an item is on sale – buy only items on your list!
4. Shop online (but not for clothes) Many of the best deals, especially on media (books, movies, etc.) can be found online. Shopping online allows you to compare prices among multiple retailers. Clothing is one area where I would stick to traditional shopping, as it is hard to judge sizes, colors, and fabric from an internet picture.
5. Sign up for email clubs. After signing up for their list, many retail stores will send you special discounts and promotions.
6. Host potluck family gatherings– Don’t waste your time and money making holiday dinners by yourself! Have everyone bring something to pass around! Saves money, time, and gives you the opportunity to try out new dishes.
7. Make your own craft ornaments and decor. I like to make my own projects using random materials. One year, I took a handful of the colorful, beautiful sea glass I found in Maine and turned it into a beautiful ornament (using a clear ornament from Michael’s). Look into sites like Pinterest for inspiration.
8. Put your credit card away. Hide your credit card. Pay for all your gifts in cash. If you can’t pay in cash, then you need to cut back. It’s as simple as that! Credit cards tempt you to spend more because you can’t actually see the money. Not to mention, you will also suffer later on with enormous interest rates and years of monthly payments.
9. Shop garage sales/thrift shops. Rummage & garage sales and thrift shops carry a large stock of holiday merchandise, many offered at a 70-80% discount off traditional retail stores.
10. Wait to buy holiday decor until after the holidays. Sure you won’t be able to use them this year, but next year you will be loaded with new stuff! It’s always exciting to find new items in your storage next year. Not to mention the awesome savings (often up to 80%) that you will enjoy by waiting.
11. Cut out extra gifts. You don’t need to exchange gifts with every friend, neighbor, and co-worker. Keep it simple.
12. Have a family grab bag as opposed to single gifts. In my family, we pick one family member to shop for by drawing names. Buying a gift for only one person saves you money, and also allows you to focus all your attention on one person. Take out the stress and time involved with shopping for multiple family members. Great idea for large families!
13. Send out free e cards. Most people toss out cards after the holiday season. Save yourself some money and send cute e cards. I love 123 greetings – there are hundreds of different styles available which you can personalize to suit your style.
14. Eat before you shop. It sounds silly but this little tactic can save you a tremendous amount of money, especially if you make multiple shopping trips. Eating before you head out with help you resist expensive restaurant stops. Another money saving tip: pack healthy snacks in your purse or glove compartment to satisfy your hunger until you get home.
15. Make homemade gifts. Thoughtful, creative gifts show that you care, and also save you money.
16. Purchase LED lights. These energy saving bulbs enable you to save up to 80% on your holiday electric bills. The small upfront cost will pay off by the end of the holiday season.
17. Find free festivities near you. Many towns offer their own tree lighting ceremonies and festivals, which offer opportunities for fun without a price tag. Check your local newspapers and Chamber of Commerce sites for upcoming events.
18. Lace up your ice skates. Here’s one budget-friendly activity that gets everyone into the holiday spirit. Find a local pond or skate at your city rink. Bring your own skates to save on the rental free. Many city rinks only charge for skate rentals.
19. Host a holiday movie marathon. The best frugal activity: watching the countless Christmas themed movies that air each season! I love ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and Hallmark channel’s Countdown to Christmas, which includes a full month of holiday made for TV movies. There’s nothing like these festive, feel-good movies to get you into the holiday spirit.
20. Don’t overspend on wrapping supplies. Go buy your wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, and name tags at a dollar store. Dollar Tree is tops in my opinion – plenty of attractive styles & everything is actually $1, compared to other “dollar stores.” Don’t waste too much money on wrapping supplies that end up in the trash.
21. Check Groupon & Living Social. Not only can you find great deals on gifts, you can also find discounted deals on festive, local events.
22. Bake your own holiday treats. Get creative by trying out new delicious holiday treat recipes. These homemade delights are healthier and cheaper than store & bakery bought treats. Whole Foods Market offers plenty of healthier versions of your traditional favorites – check the Whole Foods website for ideas.
23. Get a seasonal job. Every mall and retail store is looking for extra help over the holiday season. Use the extra money you make for holiday gifts and decor, without digging into your regular paycheck/savings.
24. Consider a more budget friendly road trip for holiday travel. Road travel comes in at about a quarter of the price of air travel. Plus, you can bring as much luggage as you want with no extra fees.
25. Turn off your holiday lights before bed. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your house lights on all night. I see a lot of people engage in this unnecessary waste of electricity.
26. Attend local concerts & play productions. Local productions of holiday favorites like “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker” are sure to be at least 50% cheaper than big city productions. There may be no big names, however, the festive spirit is still there!
27. Use your holiday lights over regular lights at night. Your LED lit Christmas tree and holiday decor will light up your living room without having to turn on your regular lights. This will balance out your energy bill during the season. Plus, what better way to enjoy a festive movie than sitting next to a beautiful Christmas tree?!
28. Check out free holiday movies, CD’s, and books at your local library. Most people forget to consider the ultimate source of free stuff…the library! Great collection of festive movies (some libraries even stock Blu-rays now!). You can also find holiday CD’s and novels. Author Debbie Macomber has a nice selection of Christmas themed novels.
29. Shop for electronic deals on Cyber Monday. Amazon always offers fantastic movie, book, and music deals, both for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
30. See if your local library participates in Freegal. Freegal is a free music downloading program. I get most of my holiday music courtesy of this program.
31. If shipping gifts, keep in mind that postage costs rise dramatically the heavier/bigger your package. Stick to smaller gifts for out of town relatives.
32. Shop at the dollar store for your pets. They won’t know the difference! You may be surprised at the nice collection of squeaker toys, tug toys, and cat toys found at your local dollar store.
33. Shop for Secret Santa gifts on Black Friday. They won’t know that you got their $25 gift for only $10.
34. Skip the holiday candies. No need to have tempting, expensive candy lying around the house all season long. Give your wallet and body a break!
35. Bring your own hot drinks while shopping. Fill up you hot chocolate, tea, or coffee in a cute reusable mug for all your shopping and activities. Target carries a wide variety of unique designs.
36. Build a snowman. Snow coming to your town? Get out there and build a snowman. It’s free, fun, and works as a great seasonal stress-buster!
37. Record holiday specials and movies on TV. No need to spend all your money buying movies. If you have a DVR, tape your favorite movies. If you don’t, schedule a live viewing party with your friends/family.
38. Create a holiday wish list with items you need. Many online retailers enable you to create wish lists. Tell your friends and families what you need, instead of getting some random, unusable product.
39. Take price tags off all gifts. Stress less without feeling the need to spend a certain figure. Leave it up to your recipients to guess the price, and drop those who expect expensive gifts!
40. Condense your shopping trips into as few as possible. Save money on gas by organizing your holiday shopping adventures onto the same date.
41. Organize pre-holiday themed parties as opposed to paying for pricey events. Wouldn’t you rather spend the time with loved ones versus strangers? Parties are cheaper, more festive, and more personal than paid attractions.
42. Don’t fall for every retail store sale. Department stores tend to offer a different sale every day as it gets closer to the holiday season. Stick to what’s on your list!
43. Go caroling with friends. Or find local caroling groups putting on events in your area. Caroling is a fun free event which gets you into the holiday mood! Not fond of singing? Find churches and choir groups in your area putting on free holiday concerts.
44. Save your candy canes each year. I don’t eat candy canes, however, I like to decorate my tree with them. I save them each year to reuse- no worry about the expiration date since I don’t intend on consuming them!
45. Make up your own festive, free holiday traditions . Creating your own personal, free yearly events often creates the most lasting memories. Whether it is a family outing to an ice rink, an all night movie marathon, or a cookie baking day, the options for budget-friendly fun are endless!
46. Re-gift items. There is nothing wrong with re-gifting unneeded/unwanted items for someone else. Just because you didn’t like the item, doesn’t mean it won’t make another person’s day!
47. Open a Christmas Club Account. These handy bank accounts let you deposit some of your money into a separate account, which can be accessed over the holidays. How’s that for stress free shopping?!
48. Buy sensible gifts that will be useful all year. Avoid giving spouses & family members holiday decor that gets put away after the season. Gifts that can be enjoyed all year are always a better value.
49. Skip trendy gifts. Avoid clothing and other trendy gifts, which will lose their appeal over time.
50. Volunteer in your town . Give the best gift of all – service to those in need! Take the time to give those struggling the gift of a great Christmas!
Happy Holidays! Feel free to share some of your best tips for saving over the holidays!