It’s the end of October, and you know what that means–pumpkins, costumes, candy, and…holiday decorations? Many people avoid thinking about the holidays until at least mid-November, but planning ahead can save you a significant amount of money, as well as lots of last minute headaches. If the thought of holiday spending scares you more than Halloween ghosts and ghouls, here are six holiday money-saving tips that can help you get through the season with ease.
Avoid overspending on holiday gifts and entertaining by creating a budget. If you know what you spent last year, and are comfortable with that amount, use that as your guideline. When developing your budget, you should consider all your expenses, including:
Not sure where to start? Penny Pinchin’ Mom has a free Holiday Budget printable, as well as other helpful holiday planning forms.
Did you already purchase some stocking stuffers at a 2014 end-of-season clearance sale? Do you have some rolls of wrapping paper left over from last year? Are all the holiday lights working? Did your children outgrow their dress shoes? Use this time to take an inventory of what you already have in your home, and then write a list of the things you really need.
According to MarketWatch, approximately $750 million worth of gift cards were unredeemed last year. Do you have any of those unused gift cards in your home? Not using them is like throwing away money. Go through your closets and drawers and find them and see if you can use them to purchase some gifts or holiday supplies.
Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are made, not bought in a store. If you are creative, now is the time to get started on DIY holiday gifts and decorations. From Peppermint Soap and Sugar Scrub to festive wreaths and photo scrapbooks, there are so many wonderful—and inexpensive—DIY ideas your recipients will love. And if you need supplies, don’t forget about all the military discounts available at stores like Michaels, Jo-Ann fabric and craft stores, and A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts.
If a loved one has a must-have item of his or her wish list that you can’t afford to pay for all at once, you may want to consider layaway. Popular years ago, layaway plans are making a comeback with consumers and retailers, including Exchange stores that serve military families.
With layaway, you put down a non-refundable down payment (typically a set amount or a certain percentage of the item’s cost) and pay off the purchase in installments over a certain time period. Unlike credit cards, layaway plans do not charge interest although there may be an initial setup fee or a cancellation fee. As long as you keep up with your payments, the item will be held for you. If payments are not made on time, the item will be returned to stock. During the holidays some retailers offer free layaway plans that do not charge a setup fee.
If you would typically pay for big ticket items with a credit card, layaway can be a smart alternative. Just be sure you are absolutely certain you want the item and that it is a still good deal after you add on any required fees. Always be sure that you understand all the terms of your layaway plan.
This is probably the most important tip to remember. Retailers want you to spend, spend, spend—they don’t care how in debt you are or if it takes you six months to pay off that latest and greatest toy. Plan now to give only what you can afford and resist the urge to impulse buy or go over your holiday budget.