Today we have a guest post from Alex Watson. Alex Watson is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing about personal finance and having fun on the cheap, and he does his best to take his own advice. He currently writes for cash for gold buyer GoldMax USA.com.
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!
Does this sound like you? If you feel like you haven’t got a ha’penny this Christmas, you’re not alone—many are tightening their belts this holiday season because of the current economic situation. If you need to do Christmas for less this year, or just want to cut down on costs and make your holiday more meaningful, there are a few strategies you can use to meet your goal of a frugal (but still merry) Christmas holiday.
Wise Financial Principles
One of the ways to save money on this holiday is simply to follow wise financial principles.
- Put Christmas in the plan. Christmas came last year, it is coming this year, and it’s pretty safe to say that it will come next year too (provided the end of the world doesn’t come when the Mayans say it will, of course). Therefore, Christmas is an expected expense. However, because it only comes once at the end of the year, some of us tend to put it out of mind. Keep Christmas from sneaking up on you by putting a little money away for your Christmas fund every so often throughout the year.
- Set a budget and stick to it. This seems to be a no-brainer, but how many of us do it? Making a budget is worth doing even if you haven’t been saving all year. Setting parameters for how much you will spend helps you to be more aware of where your money is going and helps you to avoid overspending.
- Make a list and check it twice. List the names of people you want to purchase presents for (from family to teachers to the mailman) and write next to their names what you want to get them and an estimate of how much it will cost. This exercise will give you a more realistic idea of where your spending would be in relation to your budget. You may have to make some adjustments to make your list reflect your budget.
- Spread out the expense. There are a couple ways to do this—time-wise and people-wise. First, keep an eye out for Christmas presents throughout the year, you will have the time to shop for deals and get the best prices. Shop a little bit over time. Also, if you are having several holiday meals with large groups of people, consider asking the comers to bring some of the food in order to spread out the cost a little more among several people and make it easier on your pocketbook.
- Shop during sales: Stock up on food and other items during sales, and take advantage of coupons and freebies. You could even go to thrift or consignment stores for gently used gifts at half the price of new.
Most of these financial principles involve some planning ahead. “That’s nice,” you may be thinking, “but I didn’t do that this year.” Well, life happens, and that brings us to our next point.
Shift Your Focus
If the Christmas budget isn’t very big this year, it may be a good time to shift the focus of this holiday season away from the commercialization and expensive gifts and more towards family, the spirit of giving, and the things that matter most. Minimize gifts and make them more thoughtful. Let’s be serious—which gifts do you remember the most? Chances are they weren’t the ones that were the most expensive or the shiniest; they were most likely the ones that someone you loved put a great deal of thought and personalization into.
- Make a budget: Set a dollar amount for what you will spend on each person, with the stipulation that the gift must be something the other person actually wants/would use. There have been several success stories of people who have used this method and have had some of their best Christmases ever. Read this story of the $50 Christmas budget.
- Go handmade: In conjunction with making a budget, you might try having a handmade Christmas. There is something about making something for a person you love that can bring you closer to them even before you give them the gift. Granted, this takes time, effort, and materials, but homemade gifts can be some of the most treasured. Check out this post for some great homemade Christmas gift ideas.
- Give everyday favorites: A gift doesn’t necessarily have to be something out of the ordinary or expensive—giving little favorites, like a favorite candy bar or type of lip gloss, can be just as effective as a larger gift.
Going frugal this Christmas doesn’t have to be painful—it can be an exercise in creativity and motivation to make gifts much more thoughtful and personal. Even if you have little more than a ha’penny in the old Christmas song, this Christmas can be as merry as it would be with a whole flock of Christmas geese, because it will be that much more full of the spirit of the season.