It's barely Halloween, yet the stores are bedecked with Thanksgiving décor, and “early leak” Black Friday ads are splashing across the Web. Christmas, or at least Christmas shopping, is already eking out mental space, if not also carving out bank accounts.
What to do with the pinch of inflation this year? Here are 10 creative ideas for pulling a little more cheer out of your wallet, even if it its thinner than usual
11. (YES I put that first on purpose, because it's my most important tip, so pay attention!) BONUS TIP, because my heart grew three sizes and I'm extra generous this year: 😉 You can save FAR more than $100 if you make MEMORIES, not stuff, the priority at Christmas. Take it from the someone who remembers her best Christmas as a teenager when the day was spent hosting breakfast for a sojourning family, then visiting a sick relative in the hospital. From the warm glow of childhood memories of cookie bakes and caroling parties (my #1 highlights of the Christmas season for years).
The gift of time is not cheesy. It's the most precious gift you can give your children, and the memories you make while giving it will last far longer than any of the gifts wrapped in paper under the tree.
Ok. Ready to find some cash?
1. Switch cell phone carriers. Cricket Wireless's base “unlimited” plan is $80 for two lines (and it gets cheaper per line the more lines you have). Compare that to Verizon's cheapest “unlimited” plan for two lines, $120, and you've got $40/month, right there. That's $480 over a whole year! Check the carriers offering service where you live. And don't forget to look at autopay discounts, military/first responder discounts, employer discounts, and bundled services discounts! BONUS: Switch to Cricket here and get a $25 credit on your statement after 60 days.
2. Drop the data while you're at it. C'mon, how many videos do you really NEED to stream between now and Christmas? You can tighten your data belt and drop down to 2G/month on Cricket's lowest data plan for only $30/month per line. If you're on a single line plan, that's that's an extra $25 per month, or $300 per year, just for playing with a $1 deck of cards at night instead of Facebook-numbing. And if you go into social media withdrawal, you can always re-addict yourself in January after paying your credit card in full.
3. Ditch the diapers, too. Baby or toddler still wearing diapers at home? Statistics vary, but most agree the average American family with one in diapers spends $50+/month on diapers. If you ditch diapers this week, that's about $100 saved by Christmas! If your baby is younger than 15 mos, totally ditching may or may not be an option, but you can absolutely reduce your diaper usage (and poopy-mud-wrestling, and diaper rash), all the while paving a way for a quick ditching as soon as babe is walking. Want to know more?
4. Put your grocery budget on a diet. Life is all about choices (remember, you were just telling this to your 8-year-old). That brings us to your morning cuppa and evening take-out. Food expenses top most American's budgets, after housing costs. If you need to find some extra cash without selling an organ, consider investing in a $25 drip coffee maker to brew your joe at home, and cooking super simple dinners for a few weeks. (Just tell your kids you're on a cooking adventure. And if they want to make corrective comments, they're welcome to sign up for a night's cooking, first.) Need help figuring where to slash your grocery bill (without relying on ramen)? Look no further than Tiffany's powerhouse tips and recipes at Don't Waste the Crumbs. Sign up for her 5 Days to Save $75 challenge! (And Grocery Budget Bootcamp!! Seriously, if you join Bootcamp this year - pssst, there's a good Black Friday sale coming! - next year's Christmas could be paid for with grocery savings, alone!)
5. Avoid Black Friday like the Black Plague. Ok. Maybe you can pick up Walmart's amazing socks deal. (Leave some for me!! Seriously, what do my boys do with all their socks??). Socks are a super (useful) stocking stuffer. Regarding all those other “deals” the day after Thanksgiving, just consider: You may save $80 by buying x item for $100 on Black Friday when it normally retails for $180. But how much would you save by not buying it at all? Before you click “add to cart” because it's such a good deal, ask yourself if you would have bought it at full price.
6. Get real. Do you need (either for financial or mental health) to have a less expensive Christmas this year? Debt and clutter burdens are both joy-killers. Not to mention that annoying conundrum of Christmas parenting, children engulfed in presents and gift wrap who keep asking, “are there any more?” If you need to spend less this year, be honest with your family upfront. The weight off your credit card will be matched by the weight off your mind.
7. Get creative. Who says a gift-filled Christmas has to be stress or debt-filled? You can skip the stockings, or stuff them creatively with socks, mittens (both take up a lot of space), lip balm, hair ties, rubber bands, colored pencils or crayons (we split a $1 box of crayons between three boys – and yes, they were excited). Don't forget food! A gorgeous, juicy naval orange always filled the toe of my stocking as a child. Like to bake? Think of how well-packed a stocking would be with some scrumptious muffins or pretty cookies in a baggie! Amy at Orison Orchards has lists of fun, useful and inexpensive stocking stuffers for every age and style. Don't forget to peruse her other Christmas gift lists – they're full of inspiration!
8. Try the Rule of Four. We've always made books part of our Christmas gifts for the kids. Sharing good literature (and beautiful picture books) is important to us, and books are a gift that can be enjoyed over and over! Amy has this gift-buying guide in rhyme. Four gifts per kid: One they want, one they need, one to wear, one to read. It's a helpful guide for simplifying gift buying (and also standardizing in a family with multiple kids), which in itself could save well more than $100, depending on what you normally spend on gifts. (Here's the link again for all the book lists sorted by age as well as favorite authors AND A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS THEME LIST!)
9. Redefine “new.” Ebay, Biblio, thrift stores, garage sales, trading with friends, mom-to-mom sales (our city has one at the Y in the spring and fall), you name it. There are so many places to find quality used items. Does something really need to be shrink-wrapped with the price tag attached to be enjoyed, to be useful, to be gift-able? Sure, some items are better given new (like underwear!). We live in a wonderful country; even with the pandemic pinches, there is still so much we have access to. The downside is that so much access often leads to so much excess, which results in waste. Either it goes unused and gets thrown out (or molds in the basement or garage...and then gets thrown out), or, arriving as it did with 27 other gifts, it goes unappreciated, and eventually gets treated like the leaves the kids tracked in: pushed to the corners, forgotten (and later thrown out). We can limit this cycle of waste by repurposing items with much life left, and in doing so, we shift the mindset of our children as to what counts as “fun” “beautiful” “cool” “gift”, etc. (Which, btw, can ultimately shift an entire society's consumer habits.)
10. Redefine “buying”. Do you have a friend handy with the needle? Can you trade your cooking skills in the form of a couple freezer meals for her services adjusting the dress you found at the thrift store so it fits your daughter perfectly? Paint a friend's kitchen so he can build your son a go-kart? Host a “trade-in party” at your church? Take stock of your skills, and you may be able to shave a significant portion of your budget just by trading services with a few other parents in your circle.
What are YOUR best tips for saving money for Christmas or staying inside your Christmas budget?