5 budgeting tips for prudent holiday spending
When it comes to holiday spending, you've got two choices. You can throw caution to the wind, go all out, and worry about paying for everything when the credit cards bills hit next year. Or, you could introduce some prudent frugality into your purchases and set yourself up for a successful 2014. I highly recommend the latter. Believe it or not there are ways to give your loved ones great gifts and have an entertaining holiday season without crushing your bank account. Read on to learn more.
1. Plan Remaining Purchases Effectively
Hopefully you took advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but even if you did you probably still have a few gifts to purchase. For those that remain, keep your eye on the ball. In-store and Internet specials continue through the holiday season so be sure to take advantage of them. And, although it's not for the faint of heart, shopping the day before Christmas can also net you some excellent deals. If you don't want to stress about missing out on a gift because it's out of stock, sign up at a deal sharing website like FatWallet and cross check your remaining gifts through a search on that site.
2. Go Fresh For Holiday Dinners
By catering a holiday dinner you're hosting you can save a lot of time and effort, but you're also going to pay through the nose. Instead, go fresh for all of your meals and side dishes. Mashed potatoes taste a lot better when prepared fresh and putting together a cherry pie on your own can cut costs. For your appetizers, instead of going with a premade dip from the grocery store, prepare a bountiful cheese and vegetable tray with some Greek yogurt dipping sauce in the middle and you can save big-time over buying a preprocessed product in-store. Check to see if there's a farmers market near you and save significantly on your fruit and vegetable purchases.
3. Give Your Plastic a Break
If you've been in the habit of charging everything to your credit cards, be prepared for those balances to rise quickly over the next several weeks. If you end up incurring credit card debt
as a result, you're simply shooting yourself in the foot. Unless you're 100% confident that you can pay these debts off in full and on time, use cash for all of your purchases and take the ugly aspect of credit card interest out of the equation.
4. Research Your Entertainment Choices
During the holiday season, you are typically presented with endless entertainment options. You can get a photo with Santa, take horse rides, and enjoy your local festival of lights. However, all of these events come at a cost. Your best bet is to take some time and do a bit of research, find discounts and limit yourself to the options you and your family most want to participate in.
5. Send Electronic Greeting Cards
If you have an extensive list of people you typically send Christmas cards to, writing them out is not only time-consuming, but postage and supply costs can be very expensive, as well. Instead, send them out electronically. Write personalized emails, or choose a website like 123Greetings to make the process even easier. This may seem inconsequential, but every dollar you save is worth it.
6. Go DIY
Offer up the gift of service for the new year, like child care, cooking, cleaning, or even bill paying to help out your loved ones. Make do-it-yourself decorations by painting pine cones from your backyard. For the centerpiece at your holiday dinner table, hang some candy canes around the rim of a large glass. Place a white or red candle in the middle and there you have it - a festive and inexpensive centerpiece.
If you find success with any of these ideas, tally up your holiday savings and use that "extra" money for an additional payment on your home loan or a year-end retirement contribution. Saving money during the holidays is important but investing it most effectively is what puts an exclamation point on your efforts.
What ways can you think of to spend prudently this holiday season?
Gary Fox is a homeowner in Georgia who enjoys writing about money saving strategies, home improvement projects, and frugal living.