Holiday Shopping Does Not Have to be Expensive
Start with a Budget and Stick with It - Make a list of the people who will be receiving gifts from you and decide how much you can afford to spend on each person ... even if it is only a few dollars. If the list includes grandchildren, remember their parents are primarily responsible for providing what they need. It is not necessary for you to overwhelm them with gifts. One or two small gifts is adequate in most cases. If you are buying gifts for your friends and neighbors, stick with small, thoughtful items, some of which you can purchase at a Dollar Store ... hand lotion, hot chocolate, gloves, or similar presents they can use or consume. Stay away from knickknacks and collectibles which will only gather dust and your friends probably do not need.
Make a Plan and Shop Early - Try to make as few trips to the stores as possible. The more visits you make to the mall, the more likely you are to overspend. Watch for ads and purchase the items you need when they are on sale. Keep an eye on internet prices and sign up for email alerts from your favorite chain stores or shopping sites, such as Amazon, Macy's, JC Pennys, Kohls, Best Buy and Target. Many stores will match prices if you find the exact same item online somewhere else for a lower price.
Once You are Finishing Shopping ... Stop - One of the problems many people have during the holidays is when they spend the money they budgeted and then keep going back to the shops, finding more gift items and purchasing them, as well. Once you have a gift for everyone on your list, relax and enjoy the holidays.
Make Some of Your Gifts - Some of my most cherished gifts are the quilts and embroidered pillowcases which were made by my own grandmothers decades ago. In return, I crocheted baby blankets for all my grandchildren when they were born, as well as miniature baby blankets for our granddaughter's dolls. Homemade jam, candy, cookies or cake are wonderful gifts, if you enjoy cooking!
Avoid Buying Gifts for Yourself - Once you are in the mall, a common cause of overspending is buying gifts for yourself. According to the National Retail Federation, 55.8 percent of shoppers admit they spent an average of $130 on themselves while they were purchasing gifts for other people!
More Ways to Save Money During the Holidays
Draw Names if You Have a Large Family - If you have a large number of children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews in your family, and have traditionally purchased gifts for most of them, you might suggest that everyone make it easy on themselves by drawing names, so you only need to purchase gifts for your immediate family and the one name you draw from your extended family. Everyone in your family may appreciate this idea since it will reduce their stress and the cost of holiday shopping for them, too.
Have Pot Luck Holiday Meals - Whether it is a New Year's Eve party, Christmas dinner, or Hanukah meal, providing food for a large number of guests and family members can become expensive. However, if you only offer to provide a main course, plus non-alcoholic beverages, and suggest that everyone else bring a side dish and whatever else they want to drink, it will remove a heavy financial burden from you, as well as reduce your work load.
Remember What is Most Important about the Holidays - While gifts and lavish meals are fun, it is important to remember that these are not what make the holidays special ... it is the time you spend with family and friends. Focus more on that and less on the money you spend. You will soon find you will enjoy the holidays more and will be less likely to get stressed or exceed your budget.
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Photo credit: Photo of mall decorations taken by author