The holidays are hectic and overwhelming enough without all the gift giving, but holiday expenses can push you and your budget right off the rails. Here are six ways to keep your budget on track – and you less stressed – during the holiday season.
1. Make a budget, and stick to it.
If you don’t want to overspend this year, the first thing to do is figure out how much you have to spend on holiday gifts. Be realistic when you make your budget; you should never feel like you have to spend beyond your means. How much your gift is appreciated usually has little to do with how much it costs.
2. Make a list, and stick to it.
Once you have a budget, avoid blowing it by making a list of all the people to whom you are giving gifts and the amount allotted for each present. Prioritize your list and stick to it; you’ll be organized, and you may avoid paying top dollar for a last-minute present for an important person you forgot. Also resist pressure to get a gift for every single person in your life.
3. Shop early.
If you’re like most of us, and you’re buying gifts, the general rule of thumb is: The earlier the better. Prices tend to rise as the holidays get closer. Shopping early also gives you a chance to compare prices, which can be crucial for big-ticket items. Also keep your eyes peeled for sales, especially flash sales.
4. Think quality over quantity.
It is tempting to give many gifts as a way of showing appreciation, but consider quality over quantity. Children may go gaga over a pile of toys, but most of them will be forgotten in short order; pick one or two that will offer the longest rewards, such games or books. For friends and family members, consider their interests and hobbies. Consider giving yarn to someone learning to knit, or buy a couple of tune-ups at the local bike shop for someone who commutes on two wheels. The same amount could probably buy them a pile of fancy bath products, but do they really want that? And if they do, consider buying them a day at a spa instead.
5. Consider intangible gifts.
Not every gift needs to be an object; intangible gifts can be even more exciting than tangible ones. If your friends, like mine, have started having children, consider gifting them a night of free babysitting—the time to themselves is as valuable as gold. My sister, a fantastic cook, presents my parents with a small handmade book of cooking coupons nearly every holiday season, which can be redeemed for fresh or frozen meals made by her. They love it!
6. Make gifts instead of buying them, but be honest!
Are you a skilled craftsman? Can you make things? Then consider making gifts for some or all of your friends and family. I’m a knitter and have made scarves, hats, mittens, socks, and slippers for friends and family members. Not only are the gifts personal, they’re also higher quality than most things I could afford to purchase. But you need to be honest about your skills and free time. Creation takes time; so you need to make sure you can complete your list before the holidays.
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