Accounting Tips

How to make it through the Holiday Season without breaking the bank


The holiday season is upon us.  Department stores have taken down Halloween and have almost completely skipped over Thanksgiving to begin displaying Christmas decorations.  If you haven’t already started thinking about your holiday gift giving, you could find yourself scrambling at the last minute – and that’s never good.  Before you know it, you’re rushing “willy-nilly” through the aisles of the department store and grabbing up anything you can find without considering the cost.  So, here are

some tips to surviving the holidays without breaking the bank.

Set a budget

I know I say this all the time – budget, budget, budget.  We’re not talking about your annual household budget here – just your holiday budget.  Set aside your desire to get everyone on your list exactly what they ‘want’ and be honest with yourself about what you can responsibly afford.  We’ll talk about creativity and bargain hunting later.  Right now, be realistic about what money you have and what you can afford to spend without blowing your annual household budget.  

How do you do that?  First consider your existing budget.  How much do you normally spend on discretionary items like eating out, cable TV, or movies?  Can you cut any of these temporarily to save for the holidays?  In other words, “reallocate” some of your discretionary spending towards your holiday budget.  When you’re calculating, don’t forget things like postage for Christmas cards, home decorations, and holiday party favors.  Instead of spending excessively on each other this year, join with other family members to help those who may be less fortunate.

Make your list

Now that you have your budget in place, make a list of all the people you want to buy for.  Don’t forget to plan for those little remembrance gifts for teachers, co-workers, etc.  Then go over the list and decide how much you can spend on each.  If you don’t have enough money to cover your holiday budget, consider cutting names or amounts.  If you have a large family, consider drawing names with the adults and only buying for the person whose name you drew.  Perhaps a group gift for husband and wife, or for a family – like a game for family game night.  Once you’ve settled on a dollar amount for each person, that’s it.  Focus on the amount you’ll spend, not what you’ll buy.

Shop, but don’t drop

There are lots of ways to be creative when saving on holiday gifts.  Take the time to bargain-hunt and employ some of these suggestions;

  • Look for special “savings days” at your favorite retail stores.
  • Use coupons from your newspaper, online or in-store.
  • Scan group-buying sites like Groupon, Amazon Local, Chic Market, and others.
  • Take advantage of free shipping with online purchases.
  • Ask party guest to contribute a dish to your gathering.
  • Tap into your own creative skills with DIY presents.
  • Shop through cash-back reward sites to earn back a percentage of your purchase.
  • Give experiences rather than things.

Consider the intangibles for gift giving.  If you’re already baking cooking with your family, make an extra batch for a neighbor or a friend.  Offer to baby-sit for a friend who has a lot on her plate.  Take an elderly relative or friend for an outing.  The cost is next to nothing, but the gift is priceless.

Make your gift giving part of a theme.  Come up with a theme for presents and then look for sales - game-night packages, movie-night motif.  Going with a theme helps save money and creates fun.

Be creative.  Store bought gifts are great but homemade gifts are often more meaningful.  Sites like this should give you a few ideas to start with.

Remember the reason for the season.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, keeping the holiday’s spiritual message front and center is a good antidote to the holiday gimmies.  Instead of spending weekends leading up to Christmas in the mall, it would be a lot better gift to spend your time with your family.  Remember that what you do for one day of the year is not as important as what you do for the other 364 days.