It’s never a good idea to start the New Year with almost zero extra cash in your stash – but it almost always happens. When you consider all the food expenses and holiday gifts that you usually give out during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, it can really burn a hole in your pocket.
So how you can celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank? In the following sections, we will dish out tips on how you can give gift ideas that cost very little or no money at all, what other ways are available to save money during the holidays, and why it is important to save in the first place.
The Importance of Saving Money During the Holidays
First, let’s take a look at the reasons why it is important to save money during the holidays. Even if you are the friendliest or most thoughtful person on Earth, there is absolutely no reason for you to break the bank just so that you can please everyone and give them presents during the holiday season.
Sure, Christmas is the time for giving but when you have more practical things to think about – like your kid’s college tuition or your retirement plan – you would not want to spend that much on holiday gifts, either.
When the economy took a turn for the worse a few years ago, the spirit of giving did not stop because people had less to spend. In fact, they became more creative in thinking of holiday gift ideas for their loved ones without having to spend that much.
When you set a certain budget for your holiday expenses, you would not have to face the New Year deep in debt – and it will be a great year for you all the way round.
Gift Ideas That Cost Very Little or No Money at All
The good news is that there are plenty of gift ideas that cost very little or no money at all. Take a look at some suggestions that you can borrow:
#1 Give loved ones coupons for the gift of your time
Let’s say that you are a college student and you have a big sister who has two kids. You know that during the holiday season, they go from one event to another that the couple barely has time to go out on dates.
For Christmas, you can give your big sister a coupon which is equivalent to a few hours’ worth of babysitting. Your sister and her husband can go on a holiday date while you babysit your nieces or nephews. This is definitely something that they will appreciate!
#2 Scour your desk for DIY gift items
At the end of the year, you would have accumulated unused stationery, ribbon rolls and similar items in your desk at the office or in the work desk that you use at home. Be creative and think of DIY projects that you can turn these items to.
A cleaned-up stone with a personalized message written in glitter glue is a perfect paperweight gift. Empty cases of Tic-Tacs taped together and filled with different spices can be given as a gift to someone who likes to cook.
#3 Personalized gifts from your printer
When you go online, you can find templates for personalized desk calendars, wall posters or business cards. Using the pictures of your friends or loved ones, you can download these templates and print to create gifts with a personal touch.
#4 How about something from your garden or kitchen?
If you love cooking or if you have a home garden, you can simply create a batch of food, infused oils or other items to give as holiday gifts. For instance, you can bake brownies or cookies and divide them up to give as gifts to your relatives and friends.
Infuse olive oil with garlic or other spices, place some in small bottles, tie a festive ribbon and give them out as gifts. There are plenty of easy-to-find items in your kitchen or garden that you can give out as inexpensive yet delicious holiday gifts.
Additional Ways to Save Money During the Holidays
Now that you already have an idea about the gift items that cost next to nothing to create, what are the other ways that you can save money during the holidays? Take a look at the following list:
#1 If you must shop for gifts, set a budget ceiling
If you don’t like fiddling with DIY stuff or if you’re hopeless in the kitchen, then you must shop for gift items to give away during the holiday season. To make sure that you are not spending any more than you have to, set a ceiling for your budget.
The price could be your overall budget for the entire gift giving season, or you can simply decide on an amount for each individual gift. This way, when you shop, you would not be tempted to buy something that’s more expensive than your intended price ceiling and you would not overspend.
#2 Make a list of the people who you would like to give gifts to
It is very important to make a list of the people who you would like to give gifts to. If you aimlessly walk around the mall with no list or budget in mind, it is easy for you to get caught up in the moment. When you pick up a not-so-good gift that’s not well thought out, the item might simply end up gathering dust in someone’s attic.
Well thought out gifts, though cheap, are better than pricier ones which do not really suit the personality of the recipient. After making a list of the individuals who you would like to give gifts to, write down a possible gift item or two so that your shopping experience will be painless. Don’t forget to stick to your list!
#3 Don’t use your credit card when going shopping for holiday gifts
Again, saving during the holiday season is all about sticking to a budget. This is something that you won’t be able to do if you will use your credit card. You can easily overcharge that little strip of plastic and end up starting the year deep in debt. Leave the card at home and only take enough cash that will allow you to buy all the gift items on your list.
#4 Take advantage of holiday discounts, coupons, free shipping privileges, etc.
Whether you’re shopping for gifts online or in actual shops, the holiday season is when merchants give out freebies, buy-one-take-one offers, free shipping, discounts, coupons, etc. Take advantage of these so that you can get your money’s worth when going holiday shopping.
Make a comparison of the prices from different stores so that you can buy from the merchant which offers the lowest rates. Bring your smartphone and scan those bar codes. There are apps available on Android and iOS devices which gives you the prices of the items from different merchants.
If you are shopping from an actual store, you can ask the seller to match the price that’s indicated on the scanned bar code if it is tagged as higher.
It’s also a must to do your holiday shopping in advance. When you’re pressed for time, you would have to pay prime dollar for that latest toy craze that your beloved nephew or niece is pining for. No matter which gift item it is that you plan to give as present, shopping for them early will give you the chance to save money.
#5 Consider giving gift baskets
If you’re thinking of presents for a friend who’s a new mom, consider putting together a “pamper yourself” gift basket. This could contain instant facial masks, nail polish, bath salts and other beauty items. She could be so busy taking care of the baby that she doesn’t have the time to pamper herself, so your gift basket will surely put a big smile on her face.
For movie buffs, you can put together a movie night gift basket; or give a bunch of cooking utensils for that friend who’s always whipping up something in the kitchen.
#6 Invest in big-ticket items rather than two or more inexpensive, smaller gifts
If you’re parents who are looking for gift ideas for the kids, you will save money in the long run by buying two or three big-ticket items, rather than five or more smaller-priced items which the kids will not get too excited about. The same thing holds true when looking for presents for your wife, your boss, your mom or your best friend.
#7 Plan a potluck dinner
If all else fails, you can always plan a potluck dinner. Have your guests come over and prepare their best home-cooked dishes. Mix fizzy drinks, put up festive decorations on the venue and play some holiday music. The holiday season is all about reconnecting with friends and loved ones, after all, so the price of your gifts should not really matter.