With Thanksgiving upon us it can only mean one thing the holiday season is just around the corner. And while that surely means memorable moments and delicious treats with family and friends, it can also mean stretching (or blowing) your gift-buying budget.
In todays uncertain economy, how do you spend on loved ones without breaking the bank?
Here are our top 10 practical ways to keep your bank account in the black this red-and-green season:
- Remember 1.5 1.5%, that is. Thats the maximum percent of your household income you ought to spend on holiday gifts and entertainment. In other words, if your income is $30,000 a year, dont spend more than $450 for the holidays. If you make $50,000, your limit is $750.
- Skip me gifts. For many of us, getting in the holiday spirit means splurging on ourselves. But if you buy yourself things you want all year-long, consider saving on yourself this time around.
- Create a list. Lists arent for all of us, but they can be really useful for holiday shopping. You might notice, for instance, that you can buy several people on your list the same gift or get gifts from the same store and save with a bulk purchase.
- Start now or right after Black Friday. Shoppers who tend to wait to the last minute often overspend because theyve run out of time to do some comparison shopping, or they simply give into the holiday hype and whip out their credit cards a little too often.
- Shop online. Black Friday is now followed by Cyber Monday the heaviest online spending day of the year. Last year holiday gift shoppers spent nearly $1.5 billion on this one day alone, and for good reason. Shopping online means you can more easily comparison shop and take advantage of deals like free shipping.
- Shop vintage. We all tend to like things sparkly and new but antique stores and auction sites often have rare and beautiful finds that make wonderful gifts, often at a discount.
- Secret Santa. Draw names from a hat or basket and have everyone in the family buy a gift for that one person. Theres now even a website that helps you conduct your Secret Santa online.
- Make your own gifts. We may all daydream about the latest tech gadget, game or clothing, but handmade gifts are more special and usually more memorable. If you love cooking, consider bottling savory soup or baking scrumptious cookies for everyone on your list. You might also consider offering your loved ones personalized coupons for a service you normally charge for music lessons, computer repair, or house cleaning, just to name a few.
- Enjoy the gift of community. In most places, there are tons of ways to get into the holiday spirit without spending much. Look out for community events like tree lightings, parades and plays, caroling, potluck dinners or invite your neighbors over to watch holiday movies or play games.
- Donate. Even those of us who consider ourselves less fortunate are in fact more fortunate that many who dont have a roof over the heads or a healthy meal to eat. Consider setting aside one-quarter of your holiday gift budget for those in real need.
How do you save money for the holidays? Send us your suggestions in the comments section below!