Are you like me and need ways to make November and December a little easier? With the rush of the holidays it seems like time and money are always in short supply. Over the past few years I have tried to come up with ways to make the holiday time a little less stressful. I am going to share with you a few ideas that have worked well for us and hope that some of them may help you.
- Costco Cash Card: Since Costco is the only place we get gas, I put our entire ‘gas’ budget on a cash card. There are several pay periods where we don’t use the whole budget; when this happens the money just keeps adding up on the card. It can be used for times when we need a little extra for gas, but mostly it stays on there until I need to do some Christmas shopping. If we only ‘save’ $10 a pay period that adds up to be about $250 a year. That will go a long ways towards gifts or extra food for the Holidays.
- Gift Budget: It has been helpful to have a separate line in our budget for Christmas gifts. For us, that budget amount is $25 a pay period. I have $25 to spend on things that I find on sale/clearance or to buy craft supplies to make gifts. It is helpful to have this already set aside when you run across great deals.
- Crafting: In January I make a notebook with different crafts we would like to make for certain people. I have a page for each craft that lists who it is for, what supplies are needed and a picture. Then as we have time throughout the year or as we find supplies on sale, we make those crafts. We really try to make at least one a month.
Here are some of the crafts we made last year.
- Barter: If you have something of value, whether a good or a service, barter with someone. Most people are very willing to trade with you. You can get things you may not be able to afford otherwise this way.
- Gift Cards: Take advantage of the ‘free’ gift cards that stores offer. Sometimes you get them when you buy certain items other times you get them when you sign up for their mailing list. Either way, they are nice to get and when added together can purchase something of real value. I have an envelope in our cash system that is just for these gift cards, I hang onto them until I need them for a gift.
- Savings Catcher: Wal-Mart has a program called Savings Catcher. When you shop at WM and scan your receipt, they check against local ads to see if any store had the items you bought cheaper. If they find one, they give you the difference in an E Gift Card. I always scan my receipts (and any I find in the parking lot) and let that money accumulate all year. Last year I was able to buy 3 Christmas gifts with what I had accumulated. (and if you shop through a site like SwagBucks, which I talked about in another post, you can also earn cash back on your purchase)
- Stock Up: As the holidays approach I start to stock up on items that I know I will need or use; like butter and flour for baking. If I buy a little for a couple of months it doesn’t seem so bad. In July I also start adding one extra meal (at least) to my bi monthly menu. I buy the ingredients and store them for December. By doing this I able to almost completely eliminate my food budget in December and use that money for last-minute Christmas gifts/needs? (some nights I also make extra to freeze for December)
- Flex Pay: I always budget the same amount for my utilities. Several years ago I found an average of what we paid each month and I started paying that amount every month. It really comes in handy in the summer when I have a $400 credit on our electric bill; we can use our air conditioning without worrying about having a $600 bill. But it also comes in handy in December if you still have a credit. You don’t have to pay that (or all if worked right) utility in December if you still have a credit. This again frees up more money for Christmas gifts, food and travel.
These are just a few of the ways that we make Christmas a little less stressful and a little more affordable. I hope some of these can work for you and your family. If you have any ideas to share, please leave a comment on this post.
**Check my other posts on how to earn money from home. I was able to finance our Christmas last year on surveys and secret shopping**