Give what you can afford. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and spend big on someone who always spends big money on you. But not everyone shares the same life circumstances, and if a $50 gift is what you can afford, then it’s the right gift to give. Keep in mind that gifts with a personal touch—homemade items, for instance—are often more special to the recipient than something off the shelf. (And they frequently cost less.)
Skip the holiday dinner. Throwing one, that is. Instead, invite people over for hors d’oeuvres and a signature holiday drink. You’ll save on food and the stress of cooking for a crowd – or paying a caterer. Better yet, consider throwing a post-holiday party in January when everyone is less pressed for time. You’ll enjoy getting to see people without the holiday anxiety.
Use online money-savers. Look online for special coupons, promo codes or offers on gifts you plan to give. You can find a number of sites that offer discounts or money back on purchases.
Steer clear of the tchotchke aisle. You know the one—that area of every store that sells silly little stuff that no one really needs. Often, they’re pegged as “stocking stuffers,” but how many stockings are you actually stuffing? Purchase half a dozen side gifts and you will likely have dropped an extra C-note on things no one will really appreciate. Skip those items and make your way to the register with only what you planned to buy.
Start saving in January. It may be too late now to muster a full year’s worth of savings, but if you start after the holidays, you can set aside some money to help you cover expenses next holiday season. Even if you save only $50 a month, that would add up to $550 by the following December to help defray your costs. The easiest approach may be to start a systematic savings plan in which money is automatically deducted from your pay each month for deposit in a savings or investment account.
You might also consider abstaining from buying gifts for yourself – a habit that snares nearly one in four Americans each year.v And to keep the holiday budget further in check, you might also cut back on attending pricy holiday events or performances.
The holidays can be an expensive time, especially for the generous, the charitable and the sociable, but with a little planning and a lot of restraint, you may be able to survive the season of giving without butchering the budget.