15 Ways To Control Your Holiday Budget

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2006-12-075

The average American is planning to spend almost $1,200 this year during the holidays, a 17% increase from last year, which was around $1,025. That’s some serious dough, in my book. So if you’d like to make your money stretch further, here are some approaches to controlling your budget this year, some of which I have actually applied in the past and very likely will do more of, going forward, as they’ve helped my holiday budget stay way under the $1,200 mark.

  1. Ask people about their wish list.
    I realize that people like to be surprised about the gifts they receive, but from my experience, it really helps to know what others have in their wish list so that they actually get to use what you give them. Would it bother you if someone recycles or returns your gift? I believe it may bug some people just a tad because they spent some effort and thought in picking things out. So to save time and money, try to find out what others would like and get something priced within reason for each person. Unfortunately, you’d have trouble if someone in your list is set on a PS3 or the newest releases in the world of high tech gadgetry, digital cameras or mobile phones!

  2. Play Secret Santa or decide on launching a gift exchange program.
    How about playing Secret Santa or White Elephant instead of gifting everyone you know (but make sure you play with desirable gifts)? I have a friend who has a huge extended family who told me they do this every year since this was the only way they could keep their holiday gift budget down.
  3. Recycle gift wrappers, ribbons and gift tissue paper.
    If you’re celebrating with relatives and friends and don’t mind asking them for your wrappers back, then think about using the following containers for your gifts, which are easy to reuse:

    • Use decorative gift bags and boxes, even tin cans.
    • Use fabric.
    • Use removable tape that doesn’t stick to the paper so the wrappers don’t tear.
  4. Recycle gifts.
    This could be controversial in some circles. I had a friend who received a gift from someone which still had the original tag addressed to my friend’s original “giver”, which uncovered the identity of the recycled gift. Worse, you can give a “recycled” gift to someone who actually originally gave it to you in years past. Ack! I am guilty of the latter terrible faux pas and was glad that the person had a short memory and did not realize they received their old gift back. Be careful about doing this and ensure that whoever receives a recycled gift will hopefully enjoy it.
  5. Buy items in bulk as gifts.
    If you have many friends or co-workers angling to be in your list, buy in bulk at Costco and distribute the goodies accordingly. Some good bulk items are chocolates and other food items (there are some really yummy truffles at Costco!), or merchandise that are sold with 2 for 1 (or something similar) offers.
  6. Buy from Craigslist, Marshalls, Ross Dress For Less or other deep discounters, bargain spots and places offering sales.
    Keep a stash of gifts which you replenish throughout the year so you can spring it on your recipients when the time comes! Of course, there should be an attempt to keep the items in line with what people have in their list (see #1).
  7. Do it yourself.
    If you are the creative type and have the time, why not create your own decor, gifts, wrapper and cards? Those who are crafts inclined would be a shoe-in for these activities. If you love baking, your cookies or homemade jam would be perfect for gift baskets! I’m lucky to have a mother-in-law who can make delightful jams from scratch: we have enjoyed her creations every season.
  8. Buy a gift basket for a family.
    Instead of buying an item for each member of a given family, consider giving them one of those impressive towers from Harry and David. Better yet, Target or Costco probably have these available. The displays are quite pretty, with presentation never failing to wow me. Besides, there’s a lot of variety in these baskets so there’s something for everyone.
  9. Watch out for free coupons and offerings from email and catalogs.
    The catalogs and email I receive from retailers have been announcing sales and offering coupons left, right and center. Time to use them!
  10. Scour the web for printable coupons and coupon codes.
    Before making a purchase anywhere, first browse the web for online coupons and promotional codes on products and merchandise you’re shopping for. You’ll be surprised by the volume of discounts that are always available online.
  11. Decide how much you are willing to spend.
    Determine what your budget is per person. Compare what you are spending this year to what you spent last year as a baseline and stay within the lines.
  12. Budget for non-gift Christmas items.
    Include cards, stamps, decorations, food and other things in your calculations.
  13. Shop online to browse and compare prices.
    I often find the item I like from the internet, then march off to a discount place and get it there. Or vice versa, if I find the online counterpart actually cheaper, including shipping (which is usually waived when I use my trusty coupon codes)!
  14. Only get for the kids.
    This could be more radical, but some families I know have employed this strategy. Kids get the lion’s share of the goodies, and adults get simpler items.
  15. Don’t entertain — celebrate the holidays at someone else’s house.
    Volunteering every year to host a Christmas feast won’t get you points for your money, but will certainly get you points for popularity!
  16. Buy all your Holiday items for the following year on the few days following the current year’s holiday.
    Everything is on sale at 50% – 75% off! Though I don’t shop on Black Friday, I do shop during after holiday sales, though I find the right time for it and do my best to avoid massive crowds. Unlike pre-holiday sales, I find there to be a bit more breathing room during the late December/January sales because time pressure is no longer involved. I’ve secured some good items this way with after holiday discounts, including a lovely, large Thanksgiving wreathe for only $4.00 from Bed, Bath and Beyond!
Christmas Street 1 Christmas Street 2

And one last thing: want to learn more about how to stay debt free this season? Then you may want to pick up this free booklet: Debt Free Holidays Handbook.

Lots of luck with your hale and hearty celebrations and shopping sprees!

Thanks to ChristmasStreet.com for the interesting do-it-yourself Christmas decor pics!

Copyright © 2006 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe January 4, 2007 at 11:48 am

In addition to controlling the holiday budgeting, I hope that people chose to include debt reduction and investing into their new years resolutions as well.

We briefly touched upon a few things from a credit perspective, if you want to build upon that concept: http://www.yourcreditnetwork.com/blog/NewYearsCreditCardResolutions.aspx

Ruthann DeGutis November 29, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Have you ever thought about using Geezeo, a FREE web-based personal finance manager to help you track your money and stay on budget? It’s helping me out a lot this holiday season already, and I feel less stressed about my finances!!

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