Holidays on a Budget

Now that Christmas shopping is in full swing (for some of us who don’t wait until the last minute), I thought I’d share some tips that keep my holiday shopping budget in check during the rush to buy Christmas presents.

1. Set a budget, and stick to it.
I set a pretty firm budget (meaning I will definitely stick to it), giving each person I know I’m buying for a total dollar amount I will spend on them. This allows you to control your spending down to the last penny. Also, you won’t have sticker shock when your December credit card bill arrives in your inbox. Whenever I come in under budget, I consider that a great accomplishment.

2. Pick out specific items you want to buy as gifts.
Do not just wander around Target looking for a toy that looks like it would be interesting to a two year old. If you do that, you’re less likely to score a deal on the item since you can’t do any background price checking easily. Spending time choosing what you will give ahead of time will save you, by allowing you to do #3 below.

3. Maximize your budget.
Look for deals. Deals = ability to buy that special someone more for less.

Example:
Your husband wants a specific book for Christmas. Price it out and see where it’s cheapest. A single book can be purchased at a number of places: Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, even half.com. See where you can get the best deal. Then, you can use your savings toward another gift for hubby.

4. Put those acquired couponing skills to good use.
You coupon for everyday items like body wash, chips, and canned soup. Why not use coupons around the holidays?

I find that couponing by store is the easiest way to go. Once you’ve figured out which items you’re buying and get an idea of how the item is priced, see if either the store has coupons or there is a coupon for that specific item.

Example: My sister-in-law loves Yankee Candles. I can price them out and see how the price stacks up at a Yankee Candle Store vs. Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I take into account that Yankee Candle usually has a coupon out that’s Buy 2 Get 1 or Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond always has 20% off an item coupons, plus they have a Yankee Candle Scent of the Month on sale. Go with wherever gives you the better price.

5. Keep an eye out for sales.
Most stores have sales, sometimes big ones, in the days leading up to Christmas. Scan weekly ads to see if the items you want will be on sale. And remember, if an item you just bought goes on sale a week later, you can usually get a price adjustment, depending on the store’s policy. Same goes for coupons you find for specific items after you’ve already bought them. Just bring in your receipt.

6. Use store discounts when you have them, and take advantage of rewards when they are offered.

I’m a Kohl’s charge card holder, and just about every month, I get a mailing where I get either 15%, 20%, or the coveted 30% off. I get my coupon, wait for a sale, and make big purchases then. For Kohl’s, they also often run their Kohl’s Cash promotion where you spend $50 and get $10 toward your next purchase. This really saves you a bundle.

Example: Last year, in one trip I bought three toys, a bunch of infant clothes, picture frames, throw pillows, and candles – all gifts for others. I used my 30% off discount and I accumulated Kohl’s Cash. About a week later to buy more gifts, still using my 30% off and using my Kohl’s Cash. That second trip only cost a few dollars, but I was able to buy two wristlets and some jewelry.

7. DIY part of your gift.
I love giving coordinated gifts, and those lend themselves to DIY projects.

A few Christmases ago, I decided to partially DIY a gift to my in-laws. I gave them all they needed to host guests for an evening, wine, and store bought goodies like crackers and cheese spread, but I also DIY’d some things like baking them biscotti and putting together some hot chocolate mix. I threw everything in a basket and wrapped it up.

Anything goes here, be creative.

By following these tips, I’ve gotten some great Christmas gifts and have remained within my budget. Hope you can do the same!

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