How to Stay Within Your Holiday Budget -- Part 3

Making a holiday budget isn’t that hard, but sticking to it is another matter. When you have a long list of gifts to buy and events to attend on a small budget, it often seems impossible to keep your holiday spending within the limits you’ve set for yourself. Next thing you know, you’re giving up in frustration and pulling out the credit cards. To avoid this pitfall, you need to stretch your dollars. With a few adjustments in the way you plan for, shop for, and celebrate the holidays, you can save on just about everything on your holiday list, from gifts to entertainment.

1. Adjust Expectations

One way to save on holiday gifts is to rein in expectations – both your own and other people’s – about how many presents you need to give and how big they need to be. For instance, if you currently give presents to distant relatives and friends you seldom see, perhaps you could send them cards instead.

To shift other people’s expectations, talk openly with family, friends, and co-workers before you start your shopping. Explain that you’re on a tight budget and you need to give fewer presents or smaller presents than you have in the past. There’s a good chance many of your friends and family members will welcome it.

You can also reset your expectations about other types of holiday spending. Go through the list of things you currently do for the holidays, such as sending out cards, hosting parties, decorating the house. Then ask yourself how many of them you really enjoy and how many are just habits. By cutting out activities that don’t add to your holiday cheer, you can save time as well as money.

2. Shop Smart

If you can’t pare down your gift list, make your dollars go further by shopping strategically. For starters, take advantage of sales – but don’t assume every item on sale is truly a good deal. Use price-comparison apps like ShopSavvy to make sure you’re really getting the best price.

Consider doing at least part of your holiday shopping online. Aside from the convenience, it’s easier to compare prices and apply coupon codes to save money.

If you think your family members and friends won’t mind, shop secondhand for some of your holiday gifts. At thrift shops and on eBay, you can often find books, CDs, collectibles, and jewelry in great condition for much less than they’d cost new.

Finally, try to avoid getting carried away in the holiday frenzy. If you have a hard time controlling your spending, pay for things with cash or gift cards, so you can’t run up a big credit card bill. And when you’ve checked off every item on your gift list, stay away from the mall to avoid temptation.

3. Do It Yourself

The items on your holiday list don’t always have to come from a store. In many cases, you can save by making them yourself. Festive things you can DIY for the holidays include:

  • Decorations. You can dress your home for the holidays cheaply with homemade decorations. Create displays of found items like pinecones or fresh fruit, make a collage of family photos, or cut snowflakes out of paper and dust them with glitter.
  • Holiday Greetings. Instead of sending out store-bought greeting cards to everyone on your list, make your own. Try something really radical and send each friend an actual handwritten letter in place of a card.
  • Gifts. If you have a hobby like knitting, quilting, or woodworking, you can make handmade gifts for your friends and relatives. When you put real effort into making a gift specifically for someone, it’s much more personal and moving than something you just picked up off a store shelf.

4. Embrace Potluck

Hiring a caterer for a holiday party is expensive, and making all the food yourself adds up to a lot of work and stress. The perfect solution is to make your event a potluck. When each person brings one dish, everyone gets to sample a wide variety of foods, and no one has to assume more than a small share of the work and the cost.  Ask each guest  to bring a particular type of dish or make a list of what types of dishes and ask each guest what they would like to bring.  Don’t feel guilty about asking your guests to share the cooking. The main point of a holiday party isn’t the food or the drink. It’s the time you spend together.

5. Create Some Cheaper Traditions

For most people, the most special thing about the holidays isn’t the gifts. It’s the unique holiday traditions you share with the people you care about. However, some traditions are expensive. A trip to Disneyland  or throwing an elaborate party can eat up a major share of your holiday budget. To enjoy the holidays more while spending less, focus on traditions that cost little or no money. Try these:

  • Taking a tour of your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights
  • Watching a movie at home with some hot chocolate
  • Sledding
  • Seeing Santa at the mall
  • Doing crafts together
  • Decorating the house together
  • Baking together as a family
  • Reading favorite holiday stories
  • Seeing a high school production, such as a play or choir performance
  • Caroling
  • Eating breakfast together in your pajamas
  • Lighting Hanukkah candles
  • Playing games like Scrabble, charades, or Apples to Apples
  • Volunteering at a local charity like a soup kitchen or animal shelter

Once the holidays are over, recheck your budget and see how well you managed to stick to it. If you stayed within your limits in every category, congratulations – you’ve figured out just what works for you. If you went over budget in some categories but stayed within your total spending limit, that’s a sign you need to tweak your budget . If you blew your budget completely, start planning NOW for next year.

WKFCU Christmas Club Account

Open a Christmas Club Account at your credit union. Set up payroll deduction to have money sent to the account each pay period.  Don’t withdraw any money from it until Oct. 1 and earn dividends. The money automatically goes into your regular savings account on the first business day in October and you are ready to shop. (There is a $10 Fee for each withdrawal before Oct. 1)

WKFCU Holiday Loan

$1,000 at 10% APR for $10 Months.

This loan is paid by payroll deduction and is paid off before the next Christmas.  Available until Dec. 21.

Holiday Skip-A-Pay

Choose to skip your November OR December Loan payment for a $30 processing fee per loan. Dec. 8 is the Deadline to skip your December payment. Forms are on online, www.wkfcu.org  or at either branch. 

(Partially reprinted from moneycrashers.com)
(*Annual Percentage Rate. Membership and Approved Credit Required. Some Restrictions Apply. Limited Time Offers. Not all loans eligible for Holiday Skip-A-Pay).

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12 months 4.32%
18 months 4.32%
24 months 4.16%
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