By: Rachel Ventura
Although I love the holidays, it can be a very stressful time of year. Every year, one of the biggest stresses for my family, and many others, is money. Christmas. Is. Expensive. My husband and I have 10 nieces and nephews! With cousins, siblings, parents, teachers and our own two children, no matter how much we try to cut back, the cost is huge. Everything adds up very quickly.
One thing we do that helps a ton is to have a Christmas Club account. I remember growing up, hearing my Mom talk about this concept. She was able to benefit from this through her employer. Each week, they would set aside a predetermined amount of money from her paycheck. Then, sometime in October or November, they would issue a check of the total amount they withheld. She would then use this money to buy gifts. It helps because although it’s all the same money, it isn’t being taken out of your account all at the same time.
I love the idea of this but unfortunately, have never worked at a job that offered it. I never even thought about doing it on our own until I went into the bank one day when I was pregnant with my first child. I was actually there to buy a savings bond for a Christening gift when the teller asked if I would be interested in opening a Christmas Club account. Well, of course I was! We have since changed banks but still have a separate checking account for this purpose. I have an automatic transfer go through each month and when it comes time to go Christmas shopping, it is such a relief to already have this sum of money saved up! We don’t put a huge amount in each month, and it certainly doesn’t pay for everything we need to purchase, but it helps. A lot. I seriously suggest doing this if you have not yet. Even a small amount each month will help. I promise.
I also do a lot of online shopping. It’s so much easier than trying to find time to go shopping without the kids, or worse, to drag them along with you. I feel as though I can really take my time browsing the merchandise and am able to find really great gifts! I also pride myself on the fact that I never, ever ever ever, buy anything at full price. I’m a self-proclaimed bargain hunter. And finding an item at the lowest price is a whole lot easier to do online! I buy a lot of stuff (read: way too much) from Kohl’s. They have a great selection of everything from clothes, shoes, toys, appliances, electronics, and more. Plus, they are always having a sale and you can usually use a coupon on top of it!
And speaking of coupons, I also never buy anything online without first checking for a coupon code at retailmenot.com. You just type in the name of the store or site where you are shopping, and the website pulls up any coupons that are available. There are usually at least one or two codes available to try! I also have the app on my phone, allowing me to check for any in-store coupons if I’m actually at the store shopping.
I also recently discovered Ebates, which are awesome! If you do any online shopping at all, you should be doing it through Ebates. You just go to the site, and they direct you to the store that you are going to shop at, through a special link. Then, depending on the store, you get a percentage back of your total purchase. It’s getting paid to shop!! Some percentages are more than others and some are more at certain times of the year (double cash-back percentages on Cyber Monday). I haven’t received a huge amount of money, but hey, free money is free money and I’ll take it! They send the cash-back checks out quarterly and in the past year that I’ve been a member, I think I’ve received about $25. Again, not a lot, but it’s something! I also admit that I sometimes forget to log into Ebates first and then, of course, don’t get any cash back on my purchase. So really, my cash back amount should be much more. I need to get better about that.
All year long, I try to do my best to save and shop on a budget, but even more so this time of year. Do you have any budget-friendly tips? I’d really love to hear them!