Better Budgeting: Enjoy a More Affordable and Less Hectic Holiday

Enjoy a More Affordable and Less Hectic Holiday

Black Belt Shopper (featured column)
Submitted by Larry Wiener

Here are a few tricks I use all year to make Christmas both more affordable and less hectic. Even if you can’t use them this year, they may make next year better. Print this article out and put it someplace where you’ll read it after Christmas. Then you can start even on December 26 to buy for next Christmas.

Shop for Next Christmas at the After Christmas Sales

The day or two after Christmas, you’ll find bargains galore on gift packs and other holiday themed items. Last year I picked up, among other finds, a $40 package of barbecue goodies (sauces, etc.) for $12 the day after Christmas at a mall-anchoring department store. Use your local newspaper to help make the best use of your valuable time. Find out which stores are having big sales and clip extra percent off coupons which abound the day or two after Christmas.

And, as every black belt shopper knows, after Christmas is the best time to pick up wrapping paper, cards, and other Christmas purchases.

Consider Exchanging Gifts on New Years Next Year (or Maybe Even This Year if You Can Pull it Off)

I know several families that do this. They agree not to exchange their gifts on Christmas so they can focus on other aspects of the season that day. They then come together on New Years to exchange gifts. They have another week to shop which reduces stress and also helps them to pick up more bargains.

Consider Making Gifts for Next Year

Most of us get more than enough ties, socks, and the like at Christmas time. Gifts you can make (often with your computer) can be much more meaningful. Besides the usual cookies and cakes, consider t-shirts, photo collages, and other unique gifts.

Use Auctions to Find Unusual Gifts Built Around Friends’ Interests

Any online auction contains a larger variety of goods than any store, probably than any mall. Is your nephew a Spider-Man fan? Look up “Spider-Man” on an online auction and you’ll find t-shirts, lunch boxes, books, and more Spider-Man paraphernalia than you can imagine. Auctions and online consignment stores have out of print books and movies which may match your friend’s interests.

Consider Gifts of Time

You can make a nice certificate offering your recipient time spent on his/her behalf. Maybe you know a couple with small children who could use a night out. An offer to baby-sit (maybe with a certificate for tickets to the local multiplex) can go far.

If you are an expert baker, computer person, or gardener, maybe you can offer to do something special for your recipient.

Buy All Year for Christmas

As soon as you have time, make your gift list and jot down your friends’ and family members’ interests. Then whenever you see a good gift at a bargain price, pick it up. That will both save you money and will make next Christmas less hectic.

Check Out the Dollar Stores

Here’s something you can do this year even at the last minute. If you are using Christmas napkins, wrapping paper, and other consumables, your local dollar store (Dollar Tree, Dollar General, 99 Cent Stores, etc.) can help save mightily with those and other items. And, if you live in California, Nevada, Arizona, or Texas, you can go to the 99 Cent Store and buy penny-a-minute long distance cards to call everyone on Christmas and whenever else you want to call.

Step Back and Assess

After Christmas you may want to step back and think about how you can make next Christmas better. Discuss it with others in your family. Write it down so you’ll remember. Do you really need to keep everyone on that long Christmas card list? Are there some events that you feel compelled to attend, but that you’d just as soon not? Think about it.

Christmas can be one of the most hectic, expensive, and stressful times of the year. You may or may not be able to do much to improve on that this year, but planning ahead could make Christmas both more enjoyable and less expensive from now on.

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Copyright © 2004 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.

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