It's the most wonderful time of the year! But does it seem to you that when Santa Claus comes to town, financial stress seems to always be in tow? Due to the magic of the season, it's easy to justify letting go when it comes to your budget. Whether it is parties, gifts, donations, or decorations, here are just a few things you can do to save a little this holiday season.
1. Be creative
Be honest with yourself. Gifts don't need to be shiny and expensive in order to be memorable. If you have certain skills like sewing, painting, or woodworking, consider making gifts for others instead of buying something from a store. As for giving to those in need, there are several fun ways to give that don't involve spending money. Sometimes we spend money simply because we're too lazy to take the time to explore other options.
2. Set a budget and stick to it
It doesn't matter how you create your budget. You can use budgeting software, an Excel spreadsheet, or write it down on a piece of paper. The important thing is that you create one. Be careful not to set it so loosely that you're not really saving any money, but also beware of setting it so tightly that you end up blowing it anyway out of frustration.
Now that you've created a budget, it will do you no good if you don't actually track how you're spending. Keep your holiday funds in a separate account or write down your expenses as soon as you've incurred them. Don't wait or it may be hard to remember what you bought and where.
3. Avoid using credit
Studies show that using a credit card makes you spend more in the long run. This is simply because the feeling of spending is a lot less real when you're swiping a piece of plastic than when you're giving out cold hard cash. You can get ahead on this by setting aside money throughout the year to spend. Otherwise, use a debit card where you know the money is coming out of your bank account immediately.
4. Limit the lighting
We all want our holidays to be merry and bright, but one way to save is to chill a little on the latter. If you're not careful, your electric bill could spike around the holidays. Between your Christmas tree lights and outside decorations, things can get pricey. Consider using LED lights, which typically use up to 90 percent less energy than traditional Christmas lights. Also limit the amount of time your Christmas lights are on. This can be done by purchasing lights with a built-in timer or setting a reminder in your phone to turn them off at a given time.
If you happen to live in a colder climate, keeping your thermostat high to remain warm and cozy can end up being a money pit. According to Bill Prindle, former Deputy Director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "The rule of thumb is that you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat." Shaving a few degrees off can easily be made up by using blankets, jackets, and slippers to stay warm. Additionally, you might even consider turning the heat off if you're having a party. Your guests will likely stay warm due to the number of people there and you're probably going to have the stove and oven going anyway.
Have a happy holiday!
Christmas is the best time of year, but it doesn't have to be the most expensive. All it takes is to make an extra effort to plan beforehand, keep yourself in check, and adjusting some of the things you do.