Think about this: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are three major holidays that occur within a 39-day span of each other.
You’ve got a lot crammed into a short period so the earlier you can start to plan, the better. By planning now, you can take advantage of deals that will save you money and instead of partaking of the last minute rush, you can move into the holiday season with less stress.
9 Ways Maximize Your Christmas Budget
1. Start Putting Money Aside Now
Now might be a bit late for some of us, but if you haven’t started putting money aside, now is the time to start.
Many things go into the creation of your holiday budget. It’s not just about gifts. It’s also about food, decorations, the tree, wrapping paper and many, many more things. Make sure you have all your bases covered by reading It’s Never To Early To Start Planning For The Holidays. I’ve included a nice budgeting form and some other good planning tools you can download for free.
2. Create Your Christmas Meal Plan
I’ve had meal planning on my mind quite a bit this past month and so it was naturally the first thing I thought of to help you stretch your holiday dollars.
Sit down and develop your meal plan for the holidays and start buying what you need now when you find a great sale.
By way of example, I know that Christmas Eve dinner is a traditional Italian 7 Fishes Dinner. It can be very expensive to buy everything I need at one time. Instead, when I see what I need like crab meat, shrimp or even haddock on sale, I buy it and put in the freezer that day. This way instead of spending $12.99 on shrimp, I’ll buy it when it goes on sale in October for $9.99 per pound.
Planning ahead really helps me to save on my food budget and it will help you too.
Read: The Secret to Successful Meal Planning and Food Budgeting
3. Prep Food Items So You Don’t Rely on Convenience Foods
Most holiday meals can be tricky to pull off. It can be tempting to rely on prepared items and convenience foods that are both more expensive and less appealing than the real thing. You know like the pre-cut up veggies that are all brown on the bottoms and have been sitting there for days.
Instead, avoid all of that by starting to prep a few days in advance. Make as much as you can in the two or three days before your holiday meal, leaving you only with final assembly and actual cooking on Christmas Day.
This will make your meal cheaper, tastier, more healthful and your day less stressful.
4. Get Your Gift Giving List In Order
We’ve become a society obsessed with Christmas gift giving. In the old days, a small token was greatly appreciated by the recipient. Today, you’re a slug if you don’t buy your loved one a car.
Commercialism has happened, but I’m here to tell you, you can insulate yourself against the trickery of ads and give thoughtfully without going into debt, and it all starts with your list.
I’m a big proponent of crossing people off the list, but only you can decide who stays and who goes. But if you develop your list early and know what budget you’re working with, when sales come along you’ll be better prepared to take advantage of them.
5. Reduce The Number of Gifts You’ll Buy
Where does it say you have to buy your kids 20 gifts? Nowhere.
Consider reducing the number of gifts you typically purchase your children and family members to something more reasonable.
Nothing is more discouraging than to see your kids never play with those toys again. It’s like flushing money down the toilet. Instead, invest in a few top notch toys that you know your kids really want. Have it be about quality, not quantity this year.
6. Count Retail, Not The Discounted Price
Here’s a little trick I learned many years ago. When shopping for friends or family count the retail cost of the gift, not the discounted price.
Say you find a cookbook for your mom on sale for $15 from $25 and you normally spend $20 on her, cross her off the list and say you’re done Don’t go out and look for a $5 gift to “make up the difference”. Who’s going to know?
7. Make Your Own Gifts
I love to personalize gifts and so for me making my own gifts to give is a big part of how I justify not spending a fortune on friends or neighbors.
This year I’ve dedicated 100 days to sharing with you a vast array of wonderful and simple DIY gift ideas, projects, crafts and inspiration that doesn’t cost a lot but makes a big impact.
I’m sure you’ll find something you can make for almost everyone on your list!
8. Wrap Gifts Frugally
I love to use as little as possible when wrapping gifts. Gift bags are wonderful because you can reuse them year after year. I’ve been using the same bags or bags I’ve received for over ten years. Don’t throw them away. Reuse!
Another idea is to purchase plain paper and have the kids draw on it and use if for gifts for the grandparents or aunts and uncles. You can dress it up a bit with some fancy ribbon which is less expensive than fancy wrapping paper.
Or check out this great article on 9 Ways to Package Edible Gifts.
9. Cut Back On Christmas Cards
One of the nice things about the digital age is you can create a lovely card in a program like PicMonkey and digitally send it to friends, relatives and even business associates for free!
Combine pictures, and your special holiday greeting and you’ll save yourself a big chunk of change by skipping snail mail.
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box this year and find the ways you can stretch your budget. You’ll still have a wonderful holiday, you just won’t break the bank doing it.