Now's the perfect time to start thinking about your Christmas, Hanukkah or other holiday spending plan.
While it's not Halloween yet, and many of us roll our eyes at the early holiday decorations that are already on store shelves, this is a great time to plan ahead. Have you heard that saying, "when you fail to plan, you plan to fail?" Not this year, and not on my watch.
Here are 18 tips to help you avoid overspending this holiday season.
- Make a budget. Determine what's a realistic total gift and decorating budget this year. Write it down. Stick to it.
- Make a list. Just like Santa, make your list and check it twice. Who do you need to buy for? Now look at the budget you made in step one. Is that budget realistic for the number of people you need to buy for? Did you remember the office holiday party, the neighbors' gifts, and teachers? What about the kids' presents to others?
- Reduce your list if you can. Is it possible to talk to the other adults in your family and make a rule that only the kids get gifts? Or do you purchase for the kids, and then pull names out of the hat? Get creative and suggest it as a way to get back to what's important this season - spending time with your loved ones.
- Look at homemade alternatives. Are you a crafter? Do you sew? What can you MAKE for others? I've sewn up faux fur scarves and I've made crochet hats from a good quality (yet still relatively inexpensive) ball of yarn. The people who also sew and craft know the effort that went into it and will appreciate that you spent that time. Both the people that do and don't sew will appreciate a handmade gift that's custom made for them. (P.S. Get started now so you've got time to finish!)
- Do surveys for extra cash and gift cards. Swagbucks, Pinecone Research and other survey companies will compensate you for your time spent doing consumer surveys. Redeem those points for gift cards you can gift to others or that you can use to purchase gifts.
- Keep a record of what you buy. Don't over buy for someone. Keep a running tally of the things you pick up for others. You don't want to accidentally blow your budget on one person because you keep forgetting you've already gotten that gift!
- Make use of gift card promotions at the grocery store. Many grocery stores with rewards programs will double or quadruple your rewards points when you buy gift cards there. Turn those points into grocery discounts or cheaper gas prices, depending on the program.
- What's a no-cost gift you can give? The non-bakers in your life might love some cookies, breads, or a pie each month throughout the year. Parents in your life would probably love some free babysitting. Get creative!
- Commit to no new decorations this year. What can you reuse from years past? Probably a lot. Replace individual light bulbs and make do with what you've already got.
- Sign up for store emails. Last year White House Black Market sent me some great discount codes that saved me a TON of money on gifts for a few people on our list.
- Shop early. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are great times to score deals. Many stores start offering deals Thanksgiving week, so keep an eye out.
- Is there an app for that? Target and other stores share discounts and coupons through their store apps that aren't available any other way. Michael's Crafts and Jo-Ann Fabrics have coupons in the app, via email and texts. See what options you have at your favorite stores.
- Use "Free Shipping Day" to save on shipped gifts. December 14 is "Free Shipping Day" for 2019. Many stores participate and will offer free shipping that arrives by Christmas. Past stores have included Kohls, Ulta, JC Penney, Walmart and more, so check the site as the date approaches for the current list. On this day you'll see discounts and, you guessed it, free shipping.
- Try Amazon Prime. Not a Prime member? Give it a 30-day free trial. You'll get 2-day free shipping even on orders under $35. (Not to mention access to Amazon Prime TV and all the free movies and shows they stream.)
- Check out Costco for toys. Just last week, I spotted a Lego Friends "Andrea's Pool Party" for $37.99 at Costco. The same set at Target was priced at $49.99!
- Shop by December 20th for the best deals. The closer you get to Christmas Eve, the more desperate you become, and the stores know it. If you're a chronic last-minute shopper, you're likely missing out on some earlier sales because they know you don't have much choice.
- Check for promo codes and coupon codes online when you check out. When you get to your online cart, look at the phrasing the site uses for those promo codes. Then do a quick Google search for that phrase and the store's name to see if there are any available offers to help you save a few bucks. (I do this for all kinds of stuff, not just holiday shopping!)
- Try CamelCamelCamel for Amazon savings. This site checks prices on an ongoing basis to help you determine if you're getting the best deal. Sign up for their alerts on key items on your wish lists, and you'll be notified if/when the price drops.