In many Christian countries and communities around the world, the Christmas season brings with it a wave of holiday hysteria that will put strain on anybody’s wallet. More holiday sales also mean more crowds and traffic, which can take your December from festive to frantic in an instant.
Want to get into the holiday spirit while still saving some cash for the New Year? Here are a dozen ways you can improve your Christmas spending in keeping with your budget.
1. Go DIY for gifts
If you’ve got a special hobby or talent, don’t be afraid to use it! Make your own gifts for other people to love and enjoy, paying close attention to seasonal trends or personal preferences. Bake homemade fudge brownies for a chocolate addict, knit a cute hat in your sister’s favorite color, or compose a song for your significant other.
2. Give the gift of memories
Related to Tip # 1, this gift idea is great for both your close relatives and your oldest friends. Take a stylish photo album or scrapbook, then fill it with pictures of memorable moments and experiences you’ve shared with your intended recipient. For even more of a personal touch, add stickers or funny captions to your favorite photos.
3. Pay it forward
Want to skip the blatant materialism that goes with the holiday? Give the gift of good deeds! Offer to donate to someone’s favorite charity, or help them out with a long-overdue errand such as home de-cluttering.
Know someone who’s always wanted to try something new? Treat them to cooking, art, or dancing lessons, or teach them something you’re exceptionally good at. The trick here is to substitute a physical item with a valuable experience, something your recipient would love.
4. Be choosy with who you give gifts to
Unless you commute to work in a sleigh and keep reindeer as pets, getting gifts for every single person you know is neither your job nor your obligation. Keep your list of people to buy gifts for short and manageable to prevent any undue stress. As much as possible you should stick to loved ones, trusted friends, and/or people you genuinely respect.
5. Ditch the wrapping paper for fabric
Every year we go through rolls of the stuff, only to dump it all in the trash when the gift-giving is over. Instead of adding more waste to landfills, take a more practical approach to wrapping presents. One nifty idea is to substitute wrapping paper for a functional fabric item, like a large towel or a tablecloth in a beautiful pattern. The Japanese art of furoshiki shows you how to wrap your gift elegantly using just a square of fabric and some origami-like folding techniques.
6. Wrap your gifts in newspaper
If you still prefer the old-fashioned approach to gift wrapping, scour your home and office for cheaper gift wrap alternatives. Old newspapers, catalogs, and glossy magazines remain a classic standby you can spruce up with the right ribbon and design accents. Look for the colourful Sunday comics pages when wrapping gifts for kids, or choose all-text spreads if you’re wrapping a gift for typography nerds.
7. Sending Christmas cards this year? Go electronic
Say goodbye to the yearly nuisance of shopping for greeting cards and postage stamps; use the World Wide Web to come up with tasteful holiday cards to send to your family circle via email or Facebook. Even the most basic Photoshop skills can produce a ecard with that dash of something special – something you can’t buy in any store.
8. Plan how to spend your holiday bonus
Expecting a holiday or year-end bonus? Don’t jump the gun and splurge it on your personal wish list right away! Try setting aside a fraction of it to add toward one of your long-term financial goals, such as buying a new car or saving up for a house. Once you’re satisfied with the amount you’ve saved, divide the rest between your regular home expenses and your own wants.
9. Decorate your home with things you already own
Before you buy new Christmas decorations, always go over your old ones. Mix and match décor from different seasons, so long as you keep things classy and simple. If you’re a parent, you can get creative and decorate your Christmas tree with your children’s small toys or knickknacks for a fun change.
10. Simplify party catering with potlucks
Whether you’re throwing a family reunion or planning a party at the office, potlucks are one of the easiest ways to procure enough food for everyone. Before the actual party, coordinate with your guests on who can bring what dish. This will prevent unexpected surprises such as a party with all dessert and no main course, or half a dozen varieties of the same food.
11. Simplify party entertainment with fun time-killers
Christmas parties don’t need to be bombastic affairs with free-flowing drinks and karaoke. Depending on the company you keep, your gatherings can be just as entertaining when all you have is an iPod sound system and tons of funny stories to go around. Throw impromptu Christmas carol singing contests, share silly things you’ve found on the Internet, or play DVDs of holiday movies everyone loves (or cheesy movies everyone loves to mock).
12. Budget time to spend with your family
Between your job, your family obligations, and all the hiccups that come with the holiday rush, managing your time wisely becomes more important than ever. Plan ahead when you go out for shopping errands; department stores are a convenient place to find gifts, décor, and party supplies in one go. If you need to go out of town or take a few days off for family gatherings, be sure to inform your work superiors about your plans in advance to prevent any confusion.
13. Be kind to yourself
After putting up with the usual holiday mayhem, it’s only natural for you to want to reward yourself for a job well done. This time of year tend to bring out the holiday blues in many people, so it’s important for you to cool off every now and then to preserve your sanity. Take some much-needed time to recharge and prepare for the year ahead by relaxing in the comfort of your own home. As long as you don’t get carried away, alone time can make a huge difference in making the holidays more bearable.
Want to get your hands on more money advice? Explore the MoneyHero blog and read up on all the different ways you can save for 2015!