By: Kris Berry
I’m cheap. I’ve admitted it here before, and I’ll say it again. Well, maybe cheap isn’t the right word. I’m savvy. I feel like it’s my job to try to provide for my family while sticking to a practical, yet tight, budget since I’m not working right now. Don’t get me wrong my children want for nothing. I have actually found that I’m able to get more (and items I normally wouldn’t have been able to afford) by being a thrifty shopper.
Christmas is no different. While I want to give my children the best Christmas I possibly can, I don’t want to break the bank. Our boys also have their birthdays in December, so it’s an expensive month for us. I have found that following the tips below helps me stay within my means.
Shop Around. I never buy something without first checking around on the internet to see if I can find it at a better price.
Be Organized. Don’t just shop. If I don’t have a plan, I will overspend. I always make a list of what I need and stick to it. Otherwise it is far too easy for me to be easily swayed by items I don’t really need.
Look for Printable Coupons or Coupon Codes. Before I leave the house to go to a store, or before I buy something online, I do a quick internet search for any available printable coupons or coupon codes. It’s an easy way to save a little bit extra.
Use Rewards Programs. I just started using Swag Bucks about a month ago and I’ve already been able to earn $10 in Amazon gift cards just from searching the internet. Swag Bucks, and other rewards programs, give you points by using their search engine. These points can be redeemed for gift cards or other items, helping to ease the cost of the Holidays. I almost always use programs like these to cover the cost of Christmas Cards. I love Christmas Cards. I love sending them and getting them. It makes me so happy to see how my friends and family have grown over the years. But those suckers are expensive. During the year I collect Pampers Points and then cash those in to cover the cost of my Christmas Cards. I haven’t paid for cards out of pocket since I’ve had kids.
Christmas Clubs/Budget for the Year. We don’t personally use a Christmas Club, but I think the idea is fantastic. Many banks and credit unions offer these programs where you can set aside a certain amount of money every month which is saved up until the holidays. Then you know what you have to spend and have already budgeted for it during the year. We modify this a bit by taking a look at our entire year’s spending in January. This way we know which months we have to spend a bit more (months with birthdays, vacations, etc.) and which months we can tighten up a bit. I think we might do our own version of Christmas Club starting for the next year by putting aside some money every month in a separate savings account.
Buy Used. I always look at Ebay or Craigslist to see if there are any items on my list that I can buy gently used. My children aren’t exactly delicate with their things, so most things look like they’re used within minutes of being out of boxes. I have no reservations about buying things that have already been a bit loved by another child. I can often save a lot of money shopping this way.
Be Creative. I’m fortunate to have a very handy husband. Last year my kids wanted a play kitchen for Christmas. I found a child’s sized hutch at a thrift store for less than $20. My husband turned it into the most beautiful play kitchen for them. They have used it every day (no joke) since they got it. This year I have been swooning over the large wooden Pottery Barn Kids doll house for my daughter. I happened to be driving by a yard sale and saw a huge wooden doll house for $5 on the side of the road. It’s in great shape structurally, but needs some cosmetic work. With a bit of paint it will be as great as the house I was lusting after!
Enjoy the Season. Remember that Christmas is more than just the day and the gifts. Make it fun for yourself and the kids. I try to stretch the season by taking advantage of all the fun (and free) local amusements. My kids and I visit The Enchanted Village, The Christmas Place, and Bass Pro Shops weekly during the holiday season. My town hosts a Holiday Stroll that we attend ever year. Again, it’s free and is a nice way to show some love for my town!
Give to Others and Remember the Meaning Behind the Holiday. Sheila wrote a great post about charity. People can become so focused on the consumer aspect of the holidays and forget about those who are less fortunate. It is easy to give to others and not spend a lot of money doing it. Donate items from your pantry or linen closet, give your time to a soup kitchen or volunteer at a toy drive, bake some goodies for a party. Small acts of charity and kindness go a long way.