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Monthly Savings Challenge – December

 Christmas is coming, and while this brings a lot of joy and family it can also bring stress with the financial burden of picking up gifts and dinners for everyone. In today’s market, with so many having been impacted by the recent recession, it can seem like a worry – but it doesn’t have to be.

Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, a celebration of family and Christianity and seeing people you might not see year round. Yes, gifts are a part of this, but those gifts can come in several different forms and do not have to break the bank!

We want you to be able to enjoy your holiday, not stress your way through it!

  1. List who you need to buy for, what you need to buy

A major part of saving money around Christmas is staying organized. Make a list of who you need to buy for, the potential budgets you have in mind, and what items have already been purchased. This will prevent duplicate purchasing for the same person, will give you an idea of how much you’re spending, and all in all will keep you organized.

  1. Consider a card

When making the list of who you have to buy for, there are probably a lot of names that come to mind. Ask yourself though if your list might not have at least a few friends on it who would appreciate a well picked card as much as a gift, as this can cut major costs each time it is done.

Even if you end up buying your cards in bulk (and we recommend that you do), the fact that you will have taken the time to personalize with a handwritten message around the holidays is enough to spread the Christmas cheer for a lot of people.

  1. Wrap it yourself

It is important when trying to save money that you do as much as you can yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it. You can purchase wrapping paper in bulk throughout the year (particularly in the off-Christmas season for even more discounts), and save even on that.

  1. Buy online

Wherever possible, try to take the time to buy online. This can often save a heap of money, just be aware that it will need to be done in advance. The best part? You’ll save on gas too, and won’t have to deal with the long lineups and hectic Christmas shopping crowds!

  1. Purchase in advance (especially online)

If you purchase in advance online, it may also give you the opportunity to look for stores where you can pick up more than one gift. This is advantageous because the internet is full of ‘free shipping if you spend X’ discounts, saving you even further.

Shopping in advance also ensures you have time to pick up off season clearance deals, or have the best deal shipped to your house in time for the holiday.

  1. Secret Santa where possible

If you’re at an office, or in a big family, where you may have several individuals to buy for, consider setting up a Secret Santa system. These systems involve drawing one name, instead of buying for everyone, so that everybody still gets a gift but nobody has to buy for everyone. This is a huge money saver.

  1. Split the dinner bill

The holidays involve a lot of getting together around mealtime. If you’ve hosted a Christmas party before, chances are you’re aware of the potentially high costs of having guests to your home. Why not turn it into a potluck instead this year? Or let people know they can bring something to cut the personal costs? Most people are more than willing.

  1. Get crafty

These days a homemade gift can often be more meaningful than a store bought one, and with good reason. There are a lot of crafty, easy to make gifts that people may well love – at a low cost to you. Added meaningfulness and lower cost? We think so! Roll up those crafting sleeves.

  1. Give the gift of you (and your talents)

Make a little coupon that offers your services, whether it’s breakfast in bed for the hubby, or free haircuts for people you love (if that’s your gift). The added bonus here? Gifts of service often involve spending one on one time with you, extending the holiday bonding throughout the year.

  1. Remember the meaning of the season, and take advantage

Always remember that the meaning of the season is not the price tag. If you’re really struggling, talk to those around you. Maybe they’ve felt as obligated as you have to pick up gifts, though they haven’t mattered to any one, and they’ll be glad for an excuse to just spend time together instead. This can seem like a tough conversation to start, but remember the spirit of the season is not the presents, and many people understand that.

Christmas is a happy time, a good excuse to get friends and family together – and even to make new acquaintances. It also comes as a heavy time of buying though, from gifts to new outfits to secret santa parties and catering, there are ample ways to drop a dollar around the holidays. Holiday dinners, holiday gifts, even holiday get togethers… all come with their own cost.

The reality of the holiday season is that although it is filled with cheer, it may also be filled with expense if one isn’t careful. Being careful doesn’t have to mean being cheap, it just has to mean being cautious about what you’re spending. There is nothing wrong with getting a great deal, and it can be done by following just a few easy tips and tricks.

Tip 1: Keep track of who to buy for

Keep track of who you have to buy for, throughout the year. Put an estimated budget next to the name, so that you can plan for expenses ahead of time. By planning ahead, and keeping track of who needs to be bought for and who already has, you’ll cut your bills by a significant amount – and avoid duplicate spending.

Tip 2: Start shopping early

Christmas is when you give your gifts, but it doesn’t have to be when they’re all picked up. Planning who you have to buy for throughout the year can enable you to take advantage of sales, gifts you run into earlier than the season, and help you to save by not buying it all at once on credit cards. By the time Christmas comes around, you could have hardly any shopping to be done, making it relaxing as well as affordable.

Tip 3: Encourage a secret santa system, rather than buying for individuals

Everybody has a long list to buy for, especially in situations with a big family. If you find yourself in a similar spot, why not pitch a secret Santa system where everybody buys one gift, rather than several, and everybody walks away with one? Chances are, if you’re thinking about it at least one other person will have.

A variation on this is that if somebody wants a large gift you’d like to get but struggle to afford, team up with other people buying for the same individual. They’ll understand, they’ll get the gift they want, and you’ll have saved cash.

Tip 4: Use the resources available to you to save

Use vouchers, use loyalty card points, use discounts – whatever you can to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible on each present you purchase. You’d be surprised how saving a few dollars here and there can really add up to a more affordable holiday.

Another good resource available? The internet. The internet is full of voucher codes, and lowered priced retail vendors that are ready to offer a better deal than big box stores can – on the same items! So long as you have time to purchase and have it shipped, you have time to save.

Tip 5: Get crafty

DIY gifts are on the rise, and Christmas can be a great time to try them out. Bake a bunch, make sets of PJs, whip up homemade jam. Cook your own meals instead of catering or ordering in. Every time you DIY you save a chunk of change.

Tip 6: No matter what your budget, relax

Remember that no matter how much you’re feeling the holiday pain, others are too. Follow the tips, plan accordingly, and do everything you can to ensure you have as pain free a Christmas as possible.

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