Christmas can be a real budget breaker. But with some planning and strategy, you can keep Christmas from breaking the bank. Here are 9 tips to help you out.
- Make a budget. Everyone is different and has different needs, finances, objectives, etc. Decide what you can afford and what your desires are relative to the holiday. Set a spending limit and commit to staying within that limit.
- Make a list. Decide who you want to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend on each person. Trim your list down if necessary to meet your budgetary constraints. Decide what you want to buy each person on your list. Then stick to your list. Don't be tempted to pick up something else that catches your eye but is much more expensive.
- Plan ahead and stick to the plan. Do some research before you shop. Look for sales and specials. Start early and watch for the things on your list to go on sale. Shop all year long. If you can spread out the expense during the year, you won't have the big crunch at Christmas time.
- Shop Online. Many sites have deals on shipping as well as Christmas specials that will beat the traditional "brick and mortar" stores. See what is available and take advantage of online deals.
- Pay cash or use lay-away plans. Start saving in January, so you have what you need for the holidays. You can also see if your bank has a Christmas Club account, where you save money each week and can't withdraw it until the holiday season.
- Draw names or set a spending limit on gifts. Talk with friends and family about drawing names or setting spending limits so that everyone limits the financial impact.
- Be creative. Make handmade gifts, or give the gift of time-babysitting, house cleaning, or weeding, are some examples.
- Shorten your shopping trips. Being tired impairs your judgment and decision-making skills, and you could end up buying more expensive items just so you can finish your shopping. Related to this, is last-minute, Christmas-Eve shopping, which can undo a budget in favor of "just getting something."
- Limit credit card use. Stick to your budget and make sure you can pay off credit card bills within two or three months after Christmas.