Believe me, I get it. The commercial holiday industry is not set up in the average spender’s favor.
There are ads with happy, cozy families with a certain product, hoping we’ll make the connection. Holiday tunes are playing in the background of every store I walk into. And every time you walk into a store, they have the catchy products in the front!
No, if you are operating on a budget, you have to think beyond the marketing. You have to be smart and you might have to work for it, but it is very rewarding!
I have had Christmases that were stretches; this year was one of them. Thankfully, this isn’t my first rodeo.
Here are my tips on how I stay on budget.
Write down everything.
This is where I start. I take a sheet of paper and put people in columns. Who am I buying gifts for? For whom can I really afford gifts this year? Write down the people who you know you need to shop for. It is very important to know who you are shopping for.
If you don’t know who you are shopping for, it is very easy to be tempted to buy gifts you don’t need. Every time you pick up an item at a store, I want you to ask yourself this one simple question:
Who am I buying this gift for?
If you can’t think of someone, do yourself a favor and put it back.
It is, however, always good to have a couple of gender neutral gifts for those you accidentally forget. But consider yourself warned! Too many of these will become expensive and clutter up your house. No one needs either of those.
Okay, back to my original point. I count about 9 people on my list. Not huge, but not small either.
Oh, and by the way, I would show you my list but some of my viewers are on that list!
This is your master list. Put it in an envelope away from prying eyes. Put your Christmas receipts in the same envelope so you know where they are! It makes returns so much easier.
Write down what you have given each person and either add up what you have spent on them or subtract it from the amount you put down to spend for that person. Which brings me to my next point…
Set a cap on how much you want to spend this season.
This number is the big number. How much do you want to spend on everyone? What do you have that you are willing to spend on the holidays this year?
Use this big number to work down to the people. How much do you want to spend on your family? Are there friends that you want to spend more on than others?
Don’t make me feel like I’m the only one who thinks this way. You have to do what you have to do to make Christmas happen.
If your budget is a little more relaxed, you can set caps for each person. Once you have each cap, add all the numbers together to get your big number. If your big number is too big, trim down a few areas. $5 here, $10 there. Soon enough you’ll have a number you can work with.
Know that you can’t buy everything for everyone.
I am the type of person that wants to give everybody everything they want. You want a new video game system? Sure! I’ll get it for you. You want a new car? Don’t worry, it’s on its way!
There have been several times I saw something that would be perfect for someone, only to realize that one gift was past my cap for them. It can be disheartening, but don’t be discouraged! It might be because you’ll find something better for that person. Maybe someone else was supposed to buy that gift for them.
For example, I’m not buying my brother another $50 bottle of cologne. Now that he’s married, I’m leaving that up to his wife! *Evil laughs*
Or… maybe there is a way that you can buy this gift. Segue to next point…
Oh, the loveliness that is collaboration. This happens in my family all the time.
Your mother wants something, but you can’t afford it; it’s above your cap. So you go to someone else in your family. Usually, it’s my sister/partner in-present-crime. We figure it out, and split the costs. Both of our names go on the “from” part of the tag.
You save some money, and you have a little freed up space in your budget where you didn’t have it before. The other party has a no-brainer-guaranteed gift. It’s a win-win situation.
Feel free to collaborate with more than one person too! Many hands makes the payout light, especially with a large gift. The person gets that thing that they wanted, and everyone got to work towards that goal. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
Research, research, research
Doing your research is another way you can get that expensive gift for someone, especially if you don’t have anyone to collaborate with. You might be doing most of your shopping at one location, but there is another store in the area that is selling the same item you need for $10 less.
Tell me I’m not the only one that will drive to another location for a lower price!
Checking flyers and sales online before you leave for Christmas shopping helps too. Checking flyers and sales on your phone means you’re relying on spotty cell service, which leads to frustration. And I don’t know about all you guys, but when I’m frustrated I end up just paying the higher prices or I don’t get it at all.
Looking through flyers and online means that you are getting the lowest possible price, and more bang for your buck.
Lastly, I love looking through the flyers to get gift inspiration too. It’s like shopping but with a whole lot less people 🙂
Don’t buy stuff for yourself!
This one is not easy.
Marketing around Christmas is made so that you not only spend money on others, but on yourself as well. And I know this first-hand from working in a sales position. We would make sure our customer got everything they needed for their family and friends, and then we asked them about themselves.
I worked in sales, kids. I had to make my numbers.
Most customers bought something too, as a way of treating themselves to a shopping trip well spent (…get it? 😉 ). And that’s fine, well, and dandy for the people who have the money. But you’re reading this post for a different reason.
Buying things for yourself also includes food and drinks while you are out. If I know I’m going to be out shopping for a while, I like to bring a granola or protein bar with me. If the hunger strikes me, I don’t have to worry about spending the high prices at the food court. I also usually bring a bottle of water and make coffee before I leave. That way, there are no extra expenses being taken away from my Christmas shopping.
Cutting back on spending for yourself is not only easier on your wallet but also those shopping around you. My family actually gets mad when someone buys for themselves because that is a gift one of us could have bought for them. So don’t do it!
Save for next year.
Okay, okay. I know this isn’t really a tip that can help you this holiday season. This tip is super important and is the foundation to my Christmas spending and is helpful for people who are not on a budget either!
Pick an amount of money that will be fairly negligible every week from your paycheck and multiply it by two if you get paid bi-weekly! don’t skimp on this; you’ll only hurt yourself.
My number is $5 a week. This number increased to $10 a week back in August to give me a little boost for savings.
Faithfully put that money aside every week and don’t touch it. This is no longer your money, so just put it out of your mind. This is why I said a small amount, because this fund isn’t something I would want to cause you to not be able to pay your bills and then have to dip into it.
Okay, so mine was $5.
$5 x 52 weeks in a year= $260!!
That is $260 I can put towards my big budget number. I’ve got a great start that is not eating so much into my paychecks now. All it took was putting one paper Lincoln away every week! definitely worth it in my books.
Is there any other advice you would give to someone who is on a budget this year? Have you ever used any of these tactics? Let me know in the comments below!