Do you always feel crunched during the holidays? Every year I try to plan ahead but somehow I always find myself waiting until the last minute and then wishing I had thought about buying gifts three months earlier. That’s not to mention how I am somehow always tight on cash during the holidays. Sigh. This year I’m resolving not to be in this situation again next year. Seriously. I came up with 10 money saving ideas for the holidays. I hope it benefits you as much as it does me!
1. DIY gifts
Who wouldn’t love a handmade gift? Pinterest and Google are chock full of ideas, and the possibilities are pretty much endless. From soap, to crochet and knitting, to handmade ornaments, you can literally look up how to make anything on the internet. You tube is also a wealth of knowledge of you’re trying to figure out how to make something.
2. Bake Cookies
Baking supplies are relatively inexpensive, though they can add up if you buy them all at once. Start a few months ahead and stock up on some things that won’t go bad, like sugar and flour. You can usually find cheap nuts at discount stores like Ocean State Job Lot or Big Lots. Aldi’s also has a lot of cheap baking supplies including gluten free mixes. If you have to bake gluten free, Ocean State Job Lot usually has Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten Free baking flour for a reasonable price. I have also bought gluten free flour blends in bulk on amazon. Bj’s, Costco, and Sams Club are great places to stock up on bulk baking supplies in general.
3. Host a Yankee Swap
I am seriously considering doing this next year. If you have a big family, lots of friends, or just don’t have the budget to buy everyone on your list a gift, a good ol’ fashioned yankee swap may be in order. Never heard of it? Let me explain. Throw a holiday party, or do this on Christmas itself. Have everyone bring a wrapped gift of equal value. You get to set the price limit. You can set it for whatever you want- $10, $30, or honestly, whatever you are comfortable with. Put numbers in a hat or jar. Make sure you have the same amount of numbers, as people who brought gifts. Everyone who brought a gift gets to pick a number out of the hat or jar. Number one gets first pick at a gift to open. Number two can then either steal the gift, or open a new one. Repeat the sequence until the end. No gift is safe until it’s over! Of course trades are allowed once the game is over, gift recipient willing. This seems like a fun way for everyone to get something nice, without having to buy something for everyone.
4. Less expensive Christmas cards
Last year I spend an absurd amount of money on Christmas cards. It was the first year with our daughter and I knew everyone would want a picture of her. Don’t get me wrong, the cards I bought were absolutely beautiful. Even with the two discount codes I had- one for free shipping, and one for a percentage off, I still paid over $150 for 50 cards. I would not recommend that. This year I went online and searched through cards on Walgreens, Target, and Walmart. Walmart was the least expensive. I uploaded photos from my phone to the card, personalized the greeting, and submitted it to pick up at my local Walmart’s 1 hour photo. While I was driving to town they texted me a notification that my order was ready. It had only been 30 minutes since I placed the order! I didn’t know what to expect, but I think they are beautiful. I actually can’t believe how nice they turned out, and while they aren’t on fancy card stock like last years, they are everything I wanted and I was able to order 60 cards for $28 dollars. Mind blown. While Shutterfly, tinyprints, vistaprint, and other sites like that do create beautiful cards, I personally don’t think it’s worth spending that kind of money on something most people just throw away.
5. Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals
I am not a huge fan of going to a crowded store on black Friday. However, there are some great deals out there and if you know what you are looking for it might be worth it. Before the sales start, try to make a list of things you are looking for as gifts. Then scour the flyers and advertisements. You may be able to find a great deal on an item you were going to buy anyway.
6. Craft fairs
Just before the holiday season kicks off, there are numerous local craft fairs you can shop at. The ones with the most reasonable prices are usually at churches. I went to a few fairs this November and I found some great gifts! Most of the items were handmade, some were from actual company vendors, but all were reasonably priced. I got a few gifts at the fairs, as well as some items for myself because I just couldn’t pass them up. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. As a bonus, all of the craft fairs I went to had a great raffle to enter with beautiful baskets and prizes to win. Of course I didn’t win, but the tickets were only 5 bucks and it went to either the community or the church that hosted the fair.
7. Donate to charity instead
This year at my job, instead of buying small gifts for everyone we decided as a whole to make a donation to a local food bank. This gave me the freedom to donate as little or as much as I wanted, and was still less than having to buy a small gift for everyone. A lot of people feel generous around the holidays and would love to donate to a good cause rather than spend money on a gift. You can ask your family if they would like to pitch in on giving a joint donation to charity instead of getting each other gifts. It really is the reason for the season.
8. Shop discount stores
You would be surprised at what you can find at discount stores. I’m not a huge fan of Walmart but they actually have some nice things and I’ve noticed they are getting more things that are made in America, which I love. Ocean State Job Lot and Big Lots also have some great things at times, especially stocking stuffers, but you have to check often. My favorites are TJmaxx, HomeGoods and Marshall’s. They have something for everyone and I have gotten great deals on beautiful housewares, and even gifts for my husband. There is a store near me in Amenia, NY called Label Shopper that carries name brand clothing for less. They don’t have everything all the time but they almost always have a great selection of Columbia fleece. I’ve also seen Eddie Bauer and Woolrich on the racks all the time.
9. Keep an open mind year round
Ok so this may be a little late for the holiday season now, but I think it’s a great idea and I often try to do this throughout the year. No matter what month it is, try to look at things you see in the category of “would this make a nice gift?” I can’t tell you how many places I’ve been where I was not looking for a Christmas gift at all. Heck, I wasn’t even remotely thinking about Christmas. But I saw something nice, maybe at a cute local shop, a summer or fall fair, or even just browsing around Home Goods and thought to myself, ‘wow that would be a nice gift.’ Get it! You will be glad you did, especially when the holidays are just a few weeks away and you have less money than you thought you did.
10. Start a Christmas fund
It may be too late for this season, but you can certainly start now for next year. Transfer a small amount of money each week into a separate savings account for holiday use only. There are 52 weeks in a year so if you put just $5 every week into an account you would have an extra $260 at this time next year to spend for the holidays. You can have this set up to come out automatically so you won’t even miss it.
Do you have any money saving ideas? Let me know in the comments!