The holiday season is here. It tends to be the most expensive time, with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all rolling into one. Then you have the sales; Black Friday often has too many deals that can’t be missed.
With a tight family budget, the holidays can be hard. Even here in the UK, where we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, keeping a budget in check during this time of the year isn’t easy.
Over the years, I’ve found a way to manage it. The last few years, Christmas and New Year grocery shopping has cost us very little out of our December pay, and gift giving has become a lot easier. It’s all thanks to these five ways that I’ve developed over the last few years.
Shop Throughout the Year
While Black Friday is only just starting to become a “thing” over here, we have the Boxing Day sales. These happen the day after Christmas and often go into the New Year. This is when I buy a lot of next year’s Christmas presents.
They end up stashed in wardrobes throughout the year. Sometimes, I’ll even wrap them up with the previous year’s wrapping paper that I have left over. If I can’t find something in those sales, I’ll shop throughout the year.
Getting gifts throughout the year keeps the financial stress to a minimum during the holiday season. Actually, it keeps all the stress to a minimum!
Save Up for the Grocery Shop
Never rely on your October and November income to pay for your Thanksgiving and Christmas grocery shopping. We used to, and it always left us financially drained by the end of the year. We couldn’t wait for December’s pay to go into the account, but then we were left strapped for cash when it came toward the end of January.
Paying bills is still important. That’s why saving up for holiday groceries throughout the year is the best thing to do.
Just $10 per week will give you $520 to spend. And you don’t possibly need that much. Over here, our family budgets to spend £100 for Christmas and £100 for New Year since we don’t have Thanksgiving. (That’s roughly $160 for each.) Broken down, it means we save just short of £4 per week. Now that definitely looks realistic, doesn’t it?
Decide on a realistic amount for your groceries in the holiday season. The Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year ones are the big ones, but don’t forget about small ones in between. Even if you did want to have $400 to spend over the big three with a little extra in between, you’re looking at around $7.70 per week.
That’s calculating 52 weeks, but if you didn’t want to save during the big three weeks, you can save $8.16 per week and still make your target.
Write a List…and Stick to It!
Writing a list is easy. Write out all the presents you’ll get and the groceries you’ll buy.
Now stick to it. This is the hard part, but is the most important part to keep your budget in check during the holidays. If you don’t stick to it, you’re going to end up spending more.
The shops are always full of “great deals” on snacks, cakes and drinks. Do you really need them all? Think about the amount you wasted last year and the year before. Every year, our grocery trips get smaller, despite the number of people in the house increasing! That’s because we take stock of everything we throw out uneaten or partially eaten.
Rather than getting the big boxes of chocolates to share, we get a couple of smaller ones. Not only does this protect our finances but our waistline! We’re also not giving into those greedy corporations.
Don’t buy something that isn’t on your list. You haven’t forgotten about it. You just didn’t put it on there because you know you don’t need it!
Shop Around for the Best Deals
Now might be the wrong time to start saving. After all, Thanksgiving is just a week away. But that doesn’t mean you have to overspend on your holiday budget.
Shopping around for the best deals is the best way to save. It can mean taking more time, but it is worth it when you end up in pocket.
We used to avoid this. I just wanted to get the Christmas shopping completed as soon as possible. This year, I’ve taken stock of the current prices for items. I’ll check again close to the Christmas grocery trip, and see if prices have shifted. It’s also easier to compared online now, which means I know where I’m going and when for different items.
The money I’ve saved over the year will spread further. It means there’s still some extra in the pot for next year, reducing the amount that I have to save.
Buy Gifts and Get Cashback
This is quickly becoming a favorite option of mine, and something I only started taking seriously this year. Cashback is when you get a financial reward when you buy something.
I have an account with a children’s site. It’s one that I set up when my daughter was born, and all the cashback goes into a little piggy bank for her. It’s slowly collecting a bit of money that she can use when she’s older. But there are plenty of other options, and you could use the money to help you stretch your holiday budget.
There is a catch to this. You should only buy a gift if you were actually going to buy it. It’s easy to find yourself overspending just to get the cashback rewards.
I often look for gift ideas. Before I buy it, I go to the cashback site and see if I can find it on there. If I can, then I buy it through there and claim the reward. If I can’t, then I have two choices: I can look for another, similar gift or I can just buy it from the first place I saw it. I’m not spending money that I wouldn’t have done. I’m only spending what has been budgeted for the gifts.
It is possible to keep your budget in check during the holidays. Some of that will start right after the holiday season, ready for next year. Some are things you can do right now. Think about the holiday season throughout the year. Others may laugh, but think of the amount you’ll be saving! Think of the ease on the financial burden next year! In the end, it’s absolutely worth it.