Holiday Money-saving Tips

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September 2021 View more

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Six ways to cut your costs and your holiday stress

True story. I have a recurring nightmare each December. It’s the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the family is coming for dinner, I’ve procrastinated shopping for presents, and I’m frantically racing to Walgreens or Osco to make my purchases.

Perhaps you’re a year-round shopper, aware of your family’s, neighbors’ and co-workers’ likes, and an expert in getting the perfect deal for that perfect gift. However, many of us are not as organized, and by the time the holiday arrives, we are tension filled and financially tapped out. I emailed 50 pals to ask for suggestions for lowering the stress level and avoiding credit card debt during the season. I received some great suggestions, which individually or collectively may be useful. First, though, here are some general guidelines. If it’s too late to use them this year, save them for next season.

Make a list and check it twice. 

Include everyone you’ll buy for and the realistic maximum you’ll spend for each. Is it more than your budget? Retool your expenses by determining who you might make something for (the personal touch), to lower the outlay. I allotted $100 to each grown son, which yielded two presents each, and then knitted each an afghan—very cheap! It’s not impossible to knit afghans in short order if you use size 17 needles and double strands of yarn. I did quick scarves for four young nieces two years ago at about $7 each, versus $25 in an envelope, and they loved the scarves. Not good with needles? Bake something or create something.

Wrappings, decorations have a cost. 

Keep wrapping paper cheap. Maybe you have some stowed away from last years after-Christmas sales. You’ll see more suggestions from my friends online at www.napervillemagazine.com.

Use cash whenever possible. It’s too easy to whip out the credit card and deal with the consequences next year, but do you want to be paying those bills through June? If you haven’t fallen into the trap of buying something too expensive because the credit card is available, you’re rare. Use your debit card first. If you use a credit card, pick the one with the lowest interest rate.

Shop online where shipping is included. 

Sure, you’re going to shop with your favorite retailers for some of your gifts, it’s part of the season. But save gas and the hassle of crowds for those same items you can purchase online. Brick and mortar retailers will be offering deals, and so will the online stores. The closer to the holiday, the more online retailers will offer free shipping. In many cases, you can also avoid sales tax.

Use promotional codes for online  purchases. 

Sometimes promotional codes are hidden, so search for them. Here’s an example of how I cashed in. The week before Christmas, restaurant.com slashes costs for their restaurant coupons. So, historically, I’ve used their promo code—something like “Santa”—to get huge discounts off the regular coupon cost—$25 restaurant coupons for $2 each.

Food and entertaining. 

Plain and simple, if you are hosting a soiree, ask everyone to bring a dish or appetizer, and be a happier host. The way I look at it, the host is charged with cleaning the house, decorating, getting the music going, and some cooking, but not all cooking. No one minds contributing, and chances are good they’ll bring a bottle of wine or some other libation.

I mentioned my friends’ ideas, and there are some dandies. Thirty more people offer their holiday money-saving suggestions. Visit www.napervillemagazine.com to see more tips for saving money and having a meaningful stress-free, holiday.