With less than a month until Thanksgiving arrives, there’s no time to lose when it comes to planning and saving for the holidays. Luckily the two go hand in hand. By carefully planning a holiday strategy, you’ll find yourself saving money during this typical bank-breaking season. Let’s look at three ways to plan ahead.
1. Know What You Need
It helps to know ahead of time what you’ll need for your holiday season, whether it’s cooking or gift buying. Start by figuring out your needs:
• Define your lists. Make a list of each person you need to buy a gift for, a list of special meals or treats you’ll be making, and a list of places and parties you’ll most likely be attending.
• Itemize each list in detail: what you’d like to buy for each person, a list of ingredients for everything you’ll be cooking, and a guess of extras you’ll need to bring or buy for each place you’ll be visiting.
• Estimate the cost of each expense on your lists, and add them all up. Divide the final number by the remaining pay periods you expect to have before the holidays, and you have your weekly holiday shopping budget.
2. Ways to Save on Your Now-Limited Spending
You have your budget. The challenge is to stay within it. Use these ideas to find bargains on your must-have gifts:
• Twofer items are a great way to shave money off your gift expenses. Look for items that are buy-one, get-one free, or buy-one, get-something-else free. This way you can cross off two items for the cost of one. Another twofer is to buy two or more of the same item and gift them to different people.
• Look for ways to save money on websites. For example, some sites have a discount schedule or discounts if you sign up for their newsletter.
• Who says they never use the algorithms they learned in algebra? Use a search engine such as Google to save both time and money on your shopping. Search for items on your list before you go to the mall so you know what the best price is on each item.
• If you shop early enough you may be able to take advantage of deeply discounted online sales, and many businesses now offer to ship free to their nearest retail outlet. Just remember to allow for shipping times, and remember to add any shipping and handling fees to the cost of the item you’re buying.
• In-store sales will be everywhere you look, so resist last-minute shopping. Check ads online before you leave for the store because many businesses now offer digital and online coupons for greater savings.
3. Don’t Forget the Head-Slapping Obvious
In the rat race that is today’s world, we often don’t have enough time to spend with the ones we love. There’s really nothing wrong with honesty, so if you have to tell your family there’s not a lot of cash for gift giving, you can make it up by giving them … yourself.
Giving the gift of your time. That’s right, the gift of you. Consider printing coupons for the adults in your life, and maybe a few for the kids, too, offering things such as:
• A couple of hours doing yard work such as gutter cleaning, leaf raking or painting the deck would make any parents tickled pink.
• Two or three hours of chore time for a grandparent — such as cleaning a closet, changing light bulbs, moving boxes or wiping down the top of the refrigerator —will give them bragging rights for the upcoming year.
• Park time with kids is always a hit, both with the kids and with their parents. While a trip to the neighborhood playground is great, you can also consider going to a children’s museum, a science museum or a movie.
• If you’re exceptionally brave, consider a babysitting coupon for your friends who have already started a family. This can be an hour or a week, depending on your stamina.
Keep Saving Money All Season Long
While you’re busy punching your lists into your phone memo, be aware of these Holiday Savings Bashers: impulse buying, using credit cards, and spending money at restaurants because you’re too tired from all that shopping. Avoid those pitfalls and you’ll stick to your budget just fine.