51 Tips for a Stress-free and Happy Christmas
- How much you can afford:
Calculate how much you can spend between now and Christmas and then allot a small amount of this cost to each week's spending plans, be it for gifts or for Christmas celebrations.
- Christmas Club Account:
To control your expenses, you may even start a "Christmas Club" account wherein you can deposit some cash for spending on various items during the festive season. The best thing is to save some cash amount throughout the year so that you don't have to worry at the last moment.
- Stay away from debt:
If you have enough money to pay for all items, do not use credit cards and increase your debt burden. Even if you have taken a card, try to pay at least 10% of your balance on a monthly basis.
- Cash-back Credit Card:
If required, you may apply for a cash-back credit card and get back cash worth a small fraction of what you spend on the card.
- Zero Percent Cards:
You can even take a credit card with 0% interest rate for a certain period and if there's cash deposited in a high interest bearing account, then that's good money to pay off what you owe.
- Credit card Price Protection:
You may also get price protection on credit cards though not all banks offer such facilities. Price protection ensures that you'll get a refund on the price of an item if it costs less somewhere else.
- Minimize costs on Christmas cards:
Regarding Christmas cards, cut down your list or send a postcard instead. The latter is less costly than a regular card. You can also make your own cards and decorate them.
- Avoid Postage costs:
Instead of sending a postcard, you may even make a short call; a 5 min call costs less than postage stamp and the near and dear ones would be happy to hear your voice than receive the card. Or else, you may send an email card and avoid paying for the postage.
- Need not buy Wrapping papers:
You need not waste money on gift wrapping papers - just use colorful magazine pages and covers, children's artwork on paper, or old wrapping stuff which looks almost new. The idea is to keep it simple, yet new and attractive.
- Do not invest too much on decorations:
Try to re-use decorative items which you've already used or check out with online shopping sites like eBay. But you can also make your own decorations or involve your kids along with you; they'll find it interesting enough!
- Do not ignore other Bills:
Apart from Christmas items, there are other bills to pay for. You may use standing order on a savings account as well as direct debit cards to pay for fixed expenses such as utility bills, mortgage/rent payments and taxes.
- Use Online banking for bill payoff:
Pay your bills electronically instead of paying it by post. Online banking can be used for credit card, mortgage as well as utility payments etc. The money thus saved will add up to a good amount of cash and it can help you spend more during Christmas.
- Request for change in billing cycle:
Bills that are due may come at different times and you may not have enough cash to repay each time you get the bill. So, its better that you request for a change in billing cycle so that most of the bills are paid around the same time.
You can thus organize your finances so that you pay for bills and then keep aside cash to spend on Christmas.
- Track your expenses:
Don't start spending and wait for your bank statements to tell you how well you've stuck to your budget. Keep a weekly record of how much you've spent, a few weeks prior to Christmas, so that you have enough for celebrations.
- Build your savings:
Start saving money right from the beginning of each year and out some cash into a high-yield savings account or money market funds. And at the year end, you don't have to bother about how to spend on Christmas. If you save money on Christmas gifts, it does not put pressure on you during Christmas.
- High-Interest Account:
To keep aside cash, set up a high interest bank account having the following attributes:
- No charges to open the account.
- No minimum starting balance.
- Interest rate should be at par with inflation rate.
- Interest accrues on a daily basis.
- Going for new credit:
If you are taking a new credit card or any personal loan, take care as to how you will manage in case rates go higher or you're out of job. Think twice and keep some cash reserves if you're going for new credit. If possible, try to pay off the account in full. Don’t get allured by Christmas credit card offers.
- Look for protections when you use cards:
If you don't have plain cash to spend for Christmas, use a credit card as it ensures greater protections compared to that of a debit card.
- Transfer Account Balance:
You may have to manage debts along with spending for Christmas, so transfer your credit card balance to another which is interest-free. But check out the fees for such transfer because not all banks offer this service for free.
- Use Retailers' cards:
You may use retailers' loyalty cards. By presenting such cards, you can get discounts on any current or future purchase. There are even points allotted to be used for future purchases.
- Sell off unnecessary items:
If you need cash, try selling items you don't use at eBay and Amazon. You'll make some good money out of it! You can start off with buying a few items and build up your rating as a respectable e-Bayer prior to selling the items.
- Reduce Utility Costs:
You may have utility bills to pay for such as telephone charges. If you wish to minimize such bills, look for alternatives from cable companies that package telephone, television and internet access to low-cost dial-up services. This helps you to save and invest the money elsewhere.
- Avoid payday loans:
If you don't have immediate cash, look for alternatives but do not take out payday loans. Such loans help you with urgent cash but later on you may end up with high interest charges thereby leading you into debt problems.
- Save money on Christmas gifts:
The best time to shop for gifts, cards and other stuff is during the post-Christmas sales held in the previous year. Special discounts are available and one can buy at a lower price compared to what an item is worth prior to the big day. So, that's huge savings indeed!
- Do Comparison Shopping:
Look out for sites where you can compare and shop at the cheapest price. nextag.com, bizrate.com are such sites. ebates.com and rebatejunkie.com are sites where you can get refunds on what you spend while shopping there.
- Avail offers but don't fall into traps:
Check out for special offers at stores which organize special one-day sales and discount days for Christmas. But, avoid falling to traps like credit card checks which offer attractive discounts but have a high rate of interest rate which can even go up to 30%.
- Try out with Saving Stamp schemes:
You can use saving stamp schemes offered by retailers. Try to buy such stamps throughout the year so that by Christmas time, you have enough to spend on. But this will be helpful if you know that you'll do most of the shopping at the retailer's outlet.
- Reward Schemes can help:
Check out for coupons in supermarkets and reward schemes in retail outlets – if you're the lucky one, you'll get some cash to spend on Christmas Day.
- Don't exceed the budget:
If you're on a tight budget, divide the money you have and buy gifts accordingly. May be you can include only children and not adults. This is to ensure that you don't exceed your budget.
- Arrange for a Kris Kringle gift:
For gifts, you may use a Kris Kringle - all that's done is, each guest picks up a paper from a hat and buys a gift for the person having his name on it. This is a good way to minimize your expenses on gift items.
- Be careful with Store Cards:
At a time, use only one card but avoid high-interest store cards. These cards have typically lower limits and higher fees compared to traditional cards. Be careful about special Christmas credit card offers also.
- Avail gift vouchers:
If you aren't sure of what to buy, you can get a gift voucher and then use it at more than one store. But you need to be aware of the time limits and other constraints.
- Go for Special Offers:
You can reduce holiday activities that need a lot of money and go for low-cost ones like eating at home with your family and friends or renting videos instead of going out for movies. Make use of coupons, refunds and mail-in rebates while you do so.
- Watch out for free items:
To keep it simple and frugal, you can look out for free items at community ad sites like Craiglist, Kijiji or Freecycle. Sites like eBay can provide you with coupons to help you save more. You can also check out with sites like Coupons.com for free printable coupons.
- Look for variety:
While shopping, just don't head straight towards the store or the mall you refer; there are various shopping options, so try them out as they can be far more profitable.
- Add value to your shopping:
If you're on a bigger purchase apart from gifts and the like, attend garage sales, moving sales or estate sales for all kinds of merchandise. These are available at lower retail prices and can add value to your shopping budget.
- Find out alternatives to stay within budget:
If there's an item that you wish to purchase but it doesn't fit into your Christmas budgeting plan, then look for alternatives which are less-costly and can yet be good stuff. Or else, think about the opportunity costs and you may find that it's worth going for a vacation instead of making such a purchase.
- Negotiate for low price:
Don't hesitate to ask for discounts if you're buying larger items. And don't be shy to negotiate and bargain for a better price.
- Look for second-hand purchase:
If you're willing to make big purchases this season, look out for second hand items. But make sure that they're working fine.
- How to shop with limited cash:
If you have limited cash, you can try shopping at consignment stores and thrift stores where brand new clothes with the labels attached and unwanted items are sold off at prices far lower than the retail outlets.
- Check out for Special Food offers:
For food arrangements, you can check out the special offers at grocery stores and for that you need to glance through the local ads in newspapers. Compare the offers at different stores and then opt for the one that can give you the maximum benefit.
- Avoid Online Food Shopping:
Do not shop for food online as it's more expensive than visiting the food outlets.
- Avoid last minute hassles:
Try to purchase some food products such as canned goods earlier so that the last minute shopping doesn't become that tiresome. And, your December expenses won't be that high as the cost of shopping would be spread since the past few months.
- Spend less on food:
You can prepare your own drinks and fast foods for Christmas party - these are much healthier and can help you save more.
- Party but stay within your budget:
Pick out a restaurant for a Christmas party for which you need not spend much or else just invite your friends at home and make each of them bring their favorite dish. If you wish to have catered food, then look for quotations from caterers and choose the one that's within your budget.
- Plan for your vacation:
You may wish to go on trip but make plans for it in advance. Also, prepare a vacation spending plan so that you have enough money when you're out of home.
- Savings fund can help:
Start a vacation savings fund and deposit a certain cash amount into it. Doesn't matter if it's a small amount, as every single penny will count towards the savings and make it big enough when added up.
- Join Travel Clubs:
You can become members of travel clubs and save money on hotel stays, car rentals and other items during a vacation. There's a membership fee no doubt, but that will be offset by what you save during the trip.
- Avail cheap airline services:
Low cost airline services are available for those who wish to go on a vacation at cheaper price. So, book early or else you'll be paying the higher price.
- Look through travel websites:
Watch out for online travel sites which can offer you the best of information and affordable package deals.
- How to Travel with less cash:
If you don't much cash to travel during Christmas holidays, you may take your family around the town and spend quality time with them.
General Budgeting Tips
Tips for Christmas shopping
Budgeting for Food
Tips for Travel budgeting
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