Each year, we wrap up with seasonal gatherings consisting of family, friends, food, and presents. It can be an exciting time, but an expensive one as well. Holiday spending seems to climb each year, as prices rise and holiday traditions become more elaborate. As much as people want to believe the season is about the people and the “spirit,” money plays a big role in the holiday experience.
More than ever, people are becoming more concerned with unnecessary spending. Even if you look forward to the holidays and plan for holiday spending all year, you can’t justify it as necessary. If you spent no money on gifts, you’d survive. You just wouldn’t have a lot of fun and you might make some people angry.
Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy the holidays and spend less than anticipated. This will require some more conscious decisions and transparency with other people, but it won’t ruin the season. In fact, some people will enjoy their holidays more when they remove pressures and choose to reserve their money for other things in life.
1. Make a List, Check it Twice
One way people inflate their holiday spending is with impulse buys. When you’re walking around a store or a mall, you often see fun items that remind you of the people in your life. Ultimately, this can lead you to make more purchases and spend more money.
If you have a specific list in mind, you’re less likely to overspend. So, write down the people who you want to shop for and the gift you’d like to give. It may be easier to do your shopping online. This way, your cart can keep a running total and you won’t be tempted by the items lining the aisles. When you’re in the store, you’re watching a physical cart get filled. When you’re online, you’re watching the total cost climb upwards and you can make better decisions when you’re total gets too high.
2. Ask for Necessary Items
Apparently, giving is the real gift. If you want to enjoy the pleasures of giving gifts without the guilt that comes from holiday spending, then you should make a list of items you’d like to receive. Focus on things you actually need such as kitchenware, cleaning supplies, or electronic accessories. This way your gift exchange won’t be a waste of money.
You may still see a spike in holiday spending. Later on, you will have fewer expenses because you filled your need during the holiday season. This is something you should be happy about, so when you receive a practical but unremarkable gift you will be able to show genuine gratitude.
3. Save More Paper
Holidays have a lot of hidden costs, and one of the sneakiest costs can be found outside of the gifts… quite literally. Wrapping paper may look pretty, but it gets shredded in moments and thrown in the trash. Meanwhile, Christmas cards can seem cheap, but they add up quickly.
Regifting gets a bad reputation, but if you have gift bags, you shouldn’t be ashamed to reuse them. There are also clever ways to skip the wrapping paper and cards. Make the gift a surprise by hiding it or put it in a stocking. This maintains the holiday spirit without adding to the holiday spending. Holiday messages can be sent digitally, over the phone, or over video chats. These are often more personal, and recipients won’t feel the guilt of throwing out the Christmas card on December 26th.
4. Stop Playing Games
When there are groups of people, there seems to be a need to exchange gifts. Rather than get everyone a gift, there are often games involved. Often this translates to Secret Santas or gifts swaps (like White Elephant parties or Yankee Swaps), which require spending. Even if there’s a $15 limit, that doesn’t include wrapping paper or packaging. These party games can get costly quickly and beef up your holiday spending.
Try to skip these games if you can. Four gift exchanges can result in an extra $100 spend and the best case scenario is typically walking away with a gift card. Unless you’re confident you will get a worthwhile gift, these games probably aren’t worth participating in. Any real friend will understand your choice not to play.
5. Embrace Gift Card Season
People don’t want to feel impersonal when they give gifts. This is why no one ever gives me my first-choice gift: cash. However, people often give me the second item on my wishlist: Starbucks gift cards. If you really don’t want to lose money but you want to maintain the gift-giving traditions then you should ask for gift cards. Write down a list of stores you know you’ll visit and ask people to give you cards to those places. You could have your entire coffee budget for January covered, or you could have a free meal next time you go out to eat.
Maybe you have some gift cards left over. There’s no shame in giving that card to someone else. If there isn’t a Panera Bread near you, someone else might be happy if they go to Panera frequently. You can even dump the remainder of an unused gift card into a new card in a higher quantity.
6. Use Price Match to Your Advantage
If you have more time than money, you might be hunting for deals this holiday season. Especially if you’re buying something you really need, you’re going to be tempted by holiday pricing. This can be a great way to save money, but prices change quickly and quantities are usually low. Fortunately, there are some ways to work around these limitations. Many stores have pricing-matching policies and will reduce their price to match the price of another retailer.
Target is a great example, as their price match policy is particularly generous for the Holiday 2020 season. They will match other qualifying retailers if they offer a lower price within 14 days of the purchase. They also will match a purchase to the lowest price offered during the “Black Friday season.” This ensures your holiday savings even if you miss out of a deal during a specific time frame. Other stores have price match policies that are generous, but you need to comb through the fine print to know the terms.
7. Let People Know
It seems obvious to tell others if you don’t want to give gifts or make a big fuss over the holidays, yet so many people fail to do this. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. However, it’s still a good gesture to inform your friends and family if you want to tone down the gift-giving this year. Otherwise, people will spend money on you. This is a very well-intending gesture, but potentially one that will make you inadequate.
If you’re transparent with others, you can reduce your holiday spending and still have a good time. The season is still a great time to enjoy the company and connect with the people you care about.
Turn Holiday Spending into Holiday Savings
As fun as they can be, holidays are also a stressful time. With all of the family time, travel, and planning it can be easy to lose some of your excitement for the season. Above all of this, money can add an extra layer of stress. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease your spending when compared to last year.
In 2020, people are going to be more accepting of modified traditions and altering their plans. As a rule, people know this may be a challenging time for others. If you are feeling stress due to the holiday season, this is a good time to express your concerns and consider alternate forms for celebration.
Even people who are fortunate enough to have maintained their income may be concerned about the spending associated with the holidays. If those people are open with their family and friends, they can enjoy a season of giving gifts without feeling they lost money. There are many ways to get exactly what you want and reap the benefits of the holidays all year. Anyone who cares about you wants to give you a gift because they think you will enjoy it. Focus on having fun, try to avoid the pressures from unnecessary spending, and you’re likely to end up with a great holiday and some decent savings.
Originally published at https://www.michaelbeausoleil.com on November 8, 2020.