Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday may be behind us, but there are still several weeks left to the holiday—ahem “shopping”—season. Here’s a few ways I plan to put more cheer and less cost in my holidays.
Budget: Step numeral uno is to set a budget and stick to it. I’m going to limit my spending to the amount I saved in my Christmas Club account this year. And as a preventative measure to make certain I don’t spend more than this, I loaded my entire Christmas Club check onto a reloadable spending card. Since I can’t spend more than is on the card, I won’t spend more than my budget.
Use a Shopping List: Making a list and checking it twice isn’t just what Santa Clause does, it’s how I’ll keep from overbuying this year.
Use Discounted Gift Cards: Before hitting the stores, I purchased discounted gift cards for the retailers I plan to frequent. Try websites like Gift Card Granny and Cardpool to find discounted cards, or if you’re a Bonus Checking customer, use eClub to buy gift cards at 20% off.
Wait to Buy Holiday Decorations: Not only will they be on sale after the holidays, you’ll also have a better idea of what décor you truly lack and what you can live without.
Limit Self-Gifting: I make a rule that I’m not allowed to shop for myself when I’m shopping for others. Instead, if I see something I want, I write it down and use it as a gift idea whenever anyone asks me what I’d like for Christmas.
Organize Gift Exchanges: Whether it’s with coworkers, friends, or family, one of the best ways to maintain the fun atmosphere of gift giving while still cutting back on spending is to have everyone draw names from a hat. Trust me, it’s a relief for everyone when you’re only responsible for one gift, instead of ten.
Regift: While it wouldn’t be kosher to simply unload things you don’t want, it is perfectly acceptable to regift an item to someone who would truly appreciate it. I can’t remember most of the gifts my grandfather has given me over the years, but I’ll never forget the year he gave me his set of binoculars he had used during the Korean War.
Get Crafty: Consider giving homemade gifts since we all know that the thought behind a gift is more important than its price tag. I particularly like this snow globe cookie jar idea I found on Pinterest.
Give Experiences, Not Things. Instead of giving my kids another toy dump truck that will inevitably be forgotten by New Year’s Day, I’ll take them rock collecting on one of my days off after Christmas.
Consider Alternatives to Gift Wrapping Paper. I don’t mean you have to resort to wrapping gifts in the Sunday comics. Inspired by an article I read in the Huffington Post, I found I had a lot of wrapping paper alternatives laying around my house.
Potluck. I’m headed to my mother’s house this year, but if I was hosting the holiday party, I’d make my holiday meal a potluck. This way I could enjoy all the famous dishes my guests are known for while still avoiding both the price tag and the labor of cooking the entire meal myself. In fact, it would probably taste better than if I cooked everything myself anyway.
By Adam Lucas Adam Lucas holds a Finance degree and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. His work has appeared in many major outlets including Yahoo, AARP.org, and GoBankingRates.com.
Monday on the Money is a weekly commentary from Bank of the Ozarks providing financial advice and solutions important to you and your family.