Christmas is fast approaching, and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thinking ahead and getting started on my planning. We are hosting this year which means there are more things to prep for so I’m hoping to get most of my shopping done early so I can worry about other things at the last minute. How about all of you? Do you know what you’re doing for Christmas and has anyone started their shopping?
As much fun as Christmas is, it can also be a real drain on your savings so today I’ve got a few tips to help you stretch your holiday budget.
1. Start Early…Like NOW
We’re already creeping up on the beginning of November, and the sooner you start your Christmas shopping, the better. Starting early means, you’ll have more time to set money aside, more time to seek out the very best deals and more time to make things if that’s the route you’re going. It’s even a good idea to keep your eyes open year round for something that would make a great gift, especially if you’re travelling and can pick up something unique. You can even get super keen and start next years prep on Boxing Day. This is the best time to get some new holiday decor for the following year as everything will be on clearance.
2. Go for Secret Santa
This isn’t such an issue for me as I have a tiny family, but if you’re part of a big gang, then I highly recommend pushing your family to go the Secret Santa route. This will automatically make a drastic cut in your holiday budget because you’ll only have to buy for one person instead of who knows how many. It also means you can put a little more effort (money) into making that one gift super awesome. If you have kiddos in the family, you can continue to buy for all of them (Christmas really is about the kids right? I only say this because I’m still the youngest!) and just do a Secret Santa for the grown-ups. I know some of you are probably wondering how you can broach the subject with the fam, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you’re worried about the cost of shopping for everyone most of them will feel the same.
3. Quality over Quantity
I LOOOOVE stockings, they are my favourite part of Christmas, but I like when I get stocking stuffers that I will actually use and not just dollar store junk. No one wants to be stuck with a bunch of weird knick knacks that will just end up in the trash so put a little thought into the little things and go for just a few, higher value items. Stockings are also the perfect place to use up some of those samples that are cluttering your cupboard. If you’re a Sephora addict (raises hand) then you’ll know what I’m talking about and any other beauty product junkies on your Christmas list will appreciate a good quality sample. Quality over quantity can also go for your holiday decor; a few tastefully placed items can look better and end up costing less than if you cover every surface of your home with cheap decorations.
4. Shop Local
My favourite places to find unique gifts are at farmers markets or craft fairs that feature local makers. We hit up the Etsy Made in Canada Market last month and have already checked a few people off the shopping list with some really great (and reasonably priced) finds. Locally made jewellery is one of my favourite things to buy for the ladies in my life because it is unique, easy to pack if you’re travelling and you can get great deals on things that look way more expensive. It’s also nice to be able to share a little part of your city with people who might not live in the area. Edmonton has some fantastic local vendors, and they’re amazing goods will give you bragging rights 😉 A few of my favourites are Jacek Chocolate Couture, Cloud & Lolly Jewelry Studio, DogDog Goose Houndmaid Goods, Salgado Fenwick, and Evoolution.
5. Craft it Up
Maybe you are crafty yourself and don’t even have to rely on local vendors for handmade Christmas gifts. There are lots of DIY projects you can try your hand at that make really great and meaningful gifts for your family. I taught myself how to crochet a few years ago (YouTube tutorials all the way), and I’ve made scarves, blankets, and toques as gifts, and people really do appreciate handmade gifts…as long as they are usable. My mom still wears the first scarf I made her and looking at it now it’s kind of embarrassing because my skills were seriously lacking at the time. Pinterest is a great resource for finding DIY Christmas gifts, but I recommend taking a read through some comments before attempting any project as there are definitely some duds out there. And don’t forget about Christmas baking, a fancy (not fancy) tin of home baked goodies makes a frugal Christmas gift for co-workers, teachers or neighbours.
6. Sign Up for Email Lists
It’s inevitable that you’ll end up having to hit up some regular old store for at least a few items, so you want to make sure you get the best deal possible. If you know which stores you’ll be buying from it’s not a bad idea to sign up for their email lists. It seems like every store nowadays gives you some sort of offer for signing up and they’ll also email you out special offers from time to time. You should also do a quick Google search before making any online purchases to see if there are any available coupon codes you can use to save a few extra dollars.
7. Make Use of Online Perks
Online shopping is so much more time efficient and way less stress than tackling the crowds at the mall in December, and it also gives you the chance to save extra money. Not only can you search for coupon codes but there are also sites that will pay you back when you shop. If you are an online shopper and don’t have a Rakuten account, you are seriously missing out. Rakuten is free to join, and it gives you cash back rewards to shop at many online stores you probably already frequent (think Sephora, Gap, Hudson’s Bay, etc.) You can get up to 8% cash back at some stores, and they will send you a cheque in the mail or deposit funds to your PayPal account. It really is that simple, just go to Rakuten, set up an account and before you make a purchase online Rakuten first and link to the store through there and you’re all set. They even have a browser plugin so you don’t even have to remember.
Another useful resource that works in the same way is Swagbucks, but instead of getting paid in straight cash you earn Swagbucks rewards which you can redeem for gift cards. Swagbucks also has other ways of earning rewards like surveys, a search function, etc. so if you’re willing to put in some extra time you can make even more. If you only want to use such a service for online shopping, then Ebates is the way to go.
8. Try Your Hand at Thrifting
Searching thrift stores for the perfect gift can be a daunting task, but if you’re looking to add some holiday decor to your own home, they can be a good option. I was at Value Village last week looking for Halloween costumes, and they already had Christmas decorations out. I was tempted by a few things, but our selection of decorations is already pretty extensive. Our first Christmas in our house was hard on the budget. We always had a small tree in our condo and didn’t have any outdoor space to put up lights so we ended up splurging on a bunch of things and I wish we had thought of scoping out thrift stores to cut down on the cost.
9. Nix the Fancy Wrapping Paper
For something that just gets torn up and thrown in the garbage, wrapping paper sure is expensive. And if you buy the stuff from the dollar store it’s so thin that I always ended up tearing it to shreds before the presents even make it under the tree. Plus, lots of wrapping paper can’t even be recycled so not only is it pricey, it’s also bad for the environment. What can you use instead? Plain old brown paper. Cheap, easy to wrap with, always recyclable and you can decorate it yourself. Pick up some ribbon (dollar store ribbon works fine), and beautify things a little. You can even grab a few Christmas stamps to make things a even more decorative. Brown paper also gives you the option to write right on it so you can skip the gift tags as well. Win win!
10. Get Specific About your Wish List
This one might be a bit awkward for some people, but my family has always been open about letting everyone know what we actually want for Christmas, so there are no disappointments on Christmas morning. Sure, it takes away some of the surprises, but it means you won’t have to put on any fake displays of joy and won’t have to make any returns. There’s always a few things I think of during that year that I would love to replace but don’t really want to spend the money on so I add those to my wish list. This year it’s a new cutlery set…I still have the crappy old Ikea cutlery that everyone buys when they first move out, and an upgrade is long overdue. Who wants to spend money on new cutlery, though? My parents, that’s who 😉