Well, it’s almost that time of the year again!
And if you’re anything like me, you love the holidays, but get a little anxious when you think about the stress and cost of it. While I’m not shopping expert on the best deals and sales, I am pretty creative when it comes to saving money making budgets work. Although there are many sites that can help you save money through coupons or cashback (i.e. Ebates that really does work for me!); I wanted to talk about some atypical ways to save money regarding the planning and money mindset we have around the holidays. So no matter what you celebrate this time of the year, these are my 7 ways to save money around the holiday.
1. Prioritize Your Budget
The first thing that you need to ask yourself before any holiday spending occurs is how important is it to you? Not just how much you would like to spend on the holidays, but how much in relation to everything else in your life would you like to spend? If you recently made a large purchase, like a home or a car, than maybe holiday spending isn’t on the top of your list. Or maybe next year is the year you are going to crush that student loan or take that epic travel trip, and the holidays are not your priority at this moment.
Before making a holiday budget, look at your overall budget. There is nothing worse than having that motivating feeling of a new year in January, only to have to realize you’re still chained by December debts.
I personally love the holidays, and make it a priority in my life and budget. I start thinking about my holiday budget in September and start saving around that time too. However, with this year, my life got a little crazy and I ended up having to dip into my emergency fund mid-year and have spent the last few months getting it back to normal (which I’ve succeeded in as of this week!).
Nonetheless I still have a savings and spending plan in place for the holidays. I save up for it because I enjoy spending around the holidays. This time of year also usually means that friends that moved out of town come home and I enjoy spending the time and money to catch up over brunch or dinner.
I know people are very apathetic around the holidays and choose not to spend on anything, and I know people who go all out with presents, décor, and holiday parties. Looking at the holidays as an isolated event is not helpful, it depends on your life circumstances and priorities for the year so it’s okay to say, “this year, I’m going to keep it simple,” or choose to spend vibrantly. Just define your priorities.
2. Talk About Money
This may be an unpopular conversation for people to bring up but talking about gift-giving budgets is so important. I know it can be uncomfortable but setting limits with your friends, family, and/or partner is really important because it can take the stress out of holiday shopping. While there are definitely people who I don’t set equal budgets with like my brother (who’s almost 10 years younger than I am and still in school), I do talk about it with my friends, family and partner.
With my friends and family, we have a Secret Santa budget that is clearly defined at the beginning, and with my partner we’ve decided not to do gifts this year. This was actually an interesting topic that was discussed in The Financial Diet Facebook group called “Talk About Money” about how different people do gift exchanges with their partners. I’m planning on still making something small, but my partner and I discussed and we are planning two big trips together next year and would rather put the money towards that. Plus, my partner surprises me with random gifts for me when it’s appropriate throughout the year, like a skillet in the summer when I saw one I really liked or new hiking shoes before a big hiking trip.
There is no right or wrong answer for budgets or gifts, but it’s best to have a clear understanding of what your budget is for each person.
3. Try A Secret Santa
On that note, instead of buying a ton of different gifts, try a Secret Santa! I have a Secret Santa with my friends group and the cousins in my family (and I have a lot) and it works super well.
Instead of spending a little money on everyone every year, you focus on really getting to know one person for the year and thinking about what they like. I’ve always loved Secret Santa because it can also involve a large amount of people without having to cost more. My cousin’s Secret Santa started off from 10 participants to now, up to 20. We used to draw names from a hat at Thanksgiving, but it complicated when people were away or when we had to apply certain rules (like you cannot get your sibling or significant other) so we started using Elfster and it’s a great option to do online Secret Santa!
4. Make Mini-Gifts
If you do want to get a little gift for every person, for instance people in your office, try making mini-gifts! I’ve done candygrams for a number of offices I’ve worked at throughout the years and they are always a big hit!
I basically buy holiday candy in bulk (I mix it up between chocolates, gummies, mints, etc. and expensive and less expensive candy) and bundle it in coloured clear wrap with a candy-cane heart.
This is a really easy way to make something simple and small and still reach a lot of people. Typically, I spend around $60 for about 20 candygrams so that’s about $3/gift and it’s still super thoughtful!
5. Audit Your Year-Round Shopping Needs
While the holidays can be known for it’s overindulgence and spending, I do sincerely believe there is a time and place for spending if you plan it correctly, you can leverage it to your benefit. A part of saving money during the holidays is considering your savings across the year. Throughout the year, I think about purchases I may need for my home or non-emergency purchases like a new laptop if it’s due for a renewal. This time of the year can be filled with overspending and racking up debt, but it’s also the season of sales like Black Friday and Boxing Day (if you live in Canada).
Plan out what you may need and can buy around this time of the year. For me, last year it was a TV and InstantPot. I was moving into a new place last year and I purposely waited until the holidays to buy these purchases because I knew they were items that would most likely go on sale (and they did!). It also meant that I went a few months with these items though, so as long as you have a plan, it’s okay to take advantage of these purchases. I was moving into a new place last year, so there was a reason for me to need new things (I couldn’t exactly take my parent’s TV in the living room with me).
However, it’s good to also to do an audit of the things you currently own and plan out how long they will last. During the December 2016, I bought my first MacBook because I had been struggling with my old laptop for over a year. To be fair, it was a great laptop and it held up well considering my sister bought it when she was 16, so it lasted a good 10 years. But it was dying quickly and I knew I needed a new computer. So I planned (and saved up) to buy a new laptop. Things are always most expensive when you most desperately need them, and while you can’t plan everything, thinking ahead and auditing your needs can really pay off.
6. Use Those Rewards
Almost every retailer has a rewards system so take advantage of them during the holidays! Personally, I cash in on a few rewards systems during the holidays, but it will depend on which stores you use and collect points from the most throughout the years.
My big ones are:
|PC Optimum Points - Shoppers Drugmart (Equivalent to Ulta in the U.S) /President’s Choice Grocery Stores (Almost equivalent to Target in the U.S.)|
As you can see I don’t have a ton of places I actively collect rewards from but when I do actively shop in all of these areas.
For Shoppers/President’s Choice Stores, I have a ton or rewards from there and can buy anything from gifts to specialty foods because I tend to cook a lot more of during the holidays – whether it’s hosting people or bringing something to a potluck – my grocery bill always spikes during this of the year.
For Sephora, they have their 100, 500, 1000+ perks where you can literally get small giftsets. I use my sister’s Sephora account so we can quickly accumulate points together but if you also collect points (especially when they do their sales in April and November), you can get really great small sets or stocking stuffers for the holidays. Who doesn’t love Sephora?!
Lastly, I’m an avid user of Starbucks and have been a gold member for years so I have tons of points that are racked up from them. But instead of being able to buy groceries or gifts, I use my rewards of free drinks to brighten up an experience. I live in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver and there are literally tons of free light festivals all around the city (one of my absolute favourites is La Farge Lake if you live in the area!). And like I mentioned earlier, I use the holidays to also catch up with friends so it’s a small gesture, but buying someone their favourite Starbucks holiday drink and catching up in the snow and light festival is such a fun activity that doesn’t cost much and is really soul-warming.
Spending time with people is just as important as money.
Now this may seem strange to include in a list about saving money, but a great way is save money and enjoy the holidays is to also give money. Hear me out.
When you dive deep enough into the world of personal finance a popular thing people talk about is money mindset, and long story short, it’s a term for how you think about money. How you view money has a huge impact on how you feel about money and while this is a topic all on it it’s own, the part of money mindset I want to focus on is viewing yourself as having an abundance of money. I find that gratitude is a really over-used word nowadays, but it can truly change so much.
Instead of thinking of all the things I need to buy this holiday season, I always try to take a step back and be grateful for what I do have. Don’t get me wrong, things are nice and they have importance as well, but instead of always thinking what I can buy for my apartment, I’m thankful that I have a home to come to everyday. And instead of always worrying about presents, I’m thankful I have a family I love to share it with.
Gratitude can change a lot because it places the importance away from spending money.
So instead of just focusing on what I can and “need” to buy, I also try to think about how I can help others. One of my favourite places on the internet is Humans of New York because I think it’s such an important reminder to be grateful when there are so many stories of people who go through hard times. They have a wonderful Patreon account and I have all of Brandon’s books because I truly believe in the causes he brings out of the shadow.
Whatever your cause, I encourage you to try finding something you support and donating.
Lastly, I just wanted to say that yes, money is important. And it can bring wonderful things. But the best thing about this time of the year is the kindness it brings. And sometimes the best way to save money is to remind ourselves that overspending during the holidays will not buy us joy.