When I was a kid, it took ages just to open one Christmas present; My frugal folks made us save the wrapping paper from each gift, which meant that the tape had to be pulled off slooooowly, so the paper wouldn’t rip. Though tedious at the time, they saved a bundle over the years. But there’s more to cutting down on holiday costs than just cheaping out on wrapping paper (although it’s a good start!). Below, I’ve listed 30 ways to save money during the holiday season.
1. Make a list – Write down the names of everyone you have to buy for so you know exactly how to divide your funds. (Or try this handy app that makes organizing your shopping list easy)
2. Set a budget… and don’t go over it! Make sure to set a budget for social events too. Figure out how much you can really afford to spend and make sure to stick to it.
3. Shop online – Online retailers sometimes offer cheaper prices than at the mall but beware of shipping costs which can cancel out your savings. Here are some online shopping tips.
4. Free gift wrapping – Some stores offer free gift wrapping as long as you’re patient enough to wait on those busy shopping days. Or try making your own gift boxes, like this colourful idea using paint chips.
5. Take your time – Don’t rush to buy all your gifts at the last minute. You might end up overspending because you don’t have time to shop around. Desperation breeds higher costs!
6. Ask for a better price – If you don’t ask, you won’t find out if you can get it cheaper. Just remember: be polite, not aggressive, when asking or a discount.
7. Plan your holiday food shopping carefully – Make a list of exactly what you need and don’t go overboard. You don’t want to end up throwing out food over the holidays — it’s not only a waste of money, it’s a waste of food.
8. Ho ho hold the extended warranty – Planning to buy appliances or electronics this season? You’ll probably be offered an extended warranty, which is considered a waste of money according to some. Read this post on why you need to be careful.
9. Use your library – From holiday music to movies, your local library has ways to help you entertain for free.
10. Donate to a charity – Instead of a gift, consider donating to a charity in someone’s name. You’ll be doing some good and you can get a charitable receipt to help you out at tax time.
11. Skip the outdoor lights – Yes, they’re pretty, but they suck up electricity and can play havoc with your power bill. Try going without or going for energy saving LED lights.
12. Control your impulses – It’s easy to overspend when you’re out on a shopping spree. Ask yourself if you really need another box of chocolates or that cute but probably unnecessary Christmas tree decoration. Control the urge to buy things you don’t absolutely need to get.
13. Pay your credit card off on time and in full – Don’t carry a balance on your card into 2013. Interest rates on credit cards are notoriously high, so pay it off on time and in full so you don’t get hit with high interest payments on your next bill.
14. Pack your own food when you’re out shopping – Christmas shopping takes a lot of energy so prepare for hunger pangs to hit while you’re out and about. Instead of wasting money at the food court, keep yourself hydrated and fed with your own packed snacks and drink.
15. Make your own tree decorations – Instead of buying expensive ornaments, start a fun family tradition and create your own homemade decorations. Here’s an DIY idea using just orange slices, cloves and a bit of string!
16. Save on travel – If you’re traveling this season, make the most of online sites to book the cheapest airfare and hotel. And avoid wasting money at the airport, which can really suck up your vacation budget. Here are six tips to follow.
17. Shop around for the cheapest tree – Christmas trees vary in costs and one can easily spend $150 at a fancy nursery. Do your research and find the best deals before toting home your tree this year.
18. Make your own holiday cards – Instead of buying a box of Christmas cards, use leftover scraps of paper to make unique cards for friends and family. Here are some ideas to try.
19. Secret Santa– If you’re getting together with groups of friends over the holidays, consider taking a secret Santa approach rather than buying everyone an individual gift. Make sure to set a limit beforehand so that no one goes over!
20. Make stocking stuffer gifts – You can make just about anything if you’re creative enough. From tile coasters to personalized mugs, there are tons of gifts that are cheap and easy to make that friends and family will appreciate.
21. Reuse gift bags, tags, paper and bows – My favourite family holiday ritual!
22. Pay for gifts with rewards – Do you collect rewards on your credit cards? If so, now is the time to cash them in for gifts, whether it’s cash, points towards store purchases ,or items from a reward list. This is a great way to make your year round spending habits take the edge off your Christmas shopping.
23. Buy magazine subscriptions – Monthly subscriptions are one of the cheapest gifts around. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving, with a new issue arriving every month.
24. Don’t be afraid to re-gift – If you get a gift that’s not right for you, you are fully within your rights to re-gift it, especially if it’s in decent shape and it’s something you think another friend could use. Here are some re-gift guidelines from etiquette maven Emily Post.
25. Go caroling – A fun way to get the whole family outside and a great way to meet your neighbours.
26. Try using just cash – It’s easy to overspend when you’re laying down the plastic. Stick to your budget by only having a certain amount of cash in your wallet.
27. Have a holiday movie marathon – In my house, it wouldn’t be Christmas without It’s a Wonderful Life. Pick up a stack of holiday classics at your local library, pop some popcorn and kick back with your Christmas-themed movies like Elf, Miracle on 34th Street and Love Actually.
28. Organize a skating party – Gather your friends and family and head to the local ice rink. Finish off the evening with hot chocolate and homemade cookies.
29. Bake – Wrap up your best holiday cookies, tie a ribbon around it and give as hostess gifts or as a Christmas treat for co-workers.
30. Have a holiday dance party – put on your fave holiday tunes and dance around the house in your socks. A great way to get into the holiday spirit.