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10 Ways To Plan For and Save For the Holidays

October 19, 2011 · 23 comments

in Personal Finance

Holidays come at the same time every year, which means we all have a full 12 months to plan for them.  Unless you are on a limited income, there is really no reason why Christmas expenses cannot be fully funded up front.  However, there are still ways that you can save on holiday expenses and also accumulate money to pay for those holiday gifts…

10 Ways To Help Fund and Plan Your Holiday Spending

  1. Cash In Your Change.  In December, Coinstar quite often gives an extra $10 gift card for every $40 dollars in coins cashed in.  Save up your change during the year and turn it in when Coinstar has their special promotion, and make 25 percent on the deal.  However, make sure you cash in your coins for a gift card so you don’t end up paying ridiculous fees.  There is a limit of one bonus gift card per customer, so you won’t be able to cash in $160.00 in change and get $40.00 in gift cards.  Regardless, cash in your change, redeem the change in the form of a gift card, and use that gift card for holiday shopping.
  2. Shop On Vacation.  If you put some thought into your gift giving, you will find it doesn’t have to be expensive.  Keep your gift recipients in mind when you are on vacation and see if there are some inexpensive and unique presents that you could buy for friends and family.  Maybe a unique necklace for your daughter that was made by a local crafts-person?  One-of-a-kind gifts can be surprising for the recipient, and fun to give.
  3. Accumulate and Use Coupons All Year Long.  No, I am not saying you should buy your brother 3 boxes of pop tarts for Christmas so you can use a dollar-off coupon.  I am referring to the Bed Bath and Beyond, Michael’s, Eddie Bauer, etc coupons that you can accumulate throughout the year and shop as great deals come up.  Know someone that could use a Magic Bullet?  Use a 30 percent off coupon at Kohl’s and buy it when it is on sale.  Even wrap it early and store it in the basement to make the holidays even easier!   If you plan on traveling this holiday season, consider checking out sites like Expedia Coupons to see if you can reduce your travel costs.  Bottom line:  don’t pay top dollar for whatever you are buying.
  4. Use Credit Card Rewards.  No, don’t go digging through those reward books from your credit card company and buy some cheap camera for a ridiculously high amount of points.  I am suggesting that if you use a credit card, consider a cash back reward card like American Express Blue Cash (my favorite).  Then, use that cash for holiday shopping!  My rewards are dispersed in December, so the timing is perfect for me.  However, even if the cash rewards are issued in March, you can still save the cash and dog ear the money to be used for the holidays (and use it to shop all year long).
  5. Set A Budget.  Everyone knows that kids will make a Christmas list a mile long, and some parents actually want to buy just about everything their kids wrote on their list.  Obviously this is a mistake for a million different reasons.  However,  holiday shopping really needs to be kept to a reasonable amount.  Even if you are experiencing great economic times, you shouldn’t spend more just because you can.  Set an amount for spending and stick to it.  (Exceptions are allowed for charitable spending though!)
  6. Sell books.  Do you know that if you buy a best seller that is hot off the presses, you can probably get half your money back if you sell it on Amazon immediately after you read it?  Selling books on Amazon is incredibly easy, but for some reason, people are intimidated by actually listing their books.  Just describe the book accurately and make sure you package the book well when you ship it,  and you will be all set.  Also, know when the right time is to sell a book.  If you have a recent Chemistry textbook lying around the house, don’t sell it in February.  Wait until textbook demand is at its highest in late July/August.  I know so many people that sell their textbooks back at bargain-basement prices to the bookstore.  Don’t do this.  I sold a Geometry book that my son used for $80 the summer after he was done with it.  If you plan on selling back textbooks though, make sure whoever uses them treats them well. Always think of resale when you own an item.
  7. Sell Clothes.  You can sell clothes either online or take them to a consignment shop.  Obviously you can still donate them to a thrift shop, but that will not give you the pocket money for holiday spending.  Reselling clothes is especially a good idea if Grandma bought some expensive outfits for your child which they outgrew in two minutes.  Many consignment shops specialize in selling high-end clothes, and you can get a decent price for some items.
  8. Diet and Sell Clothes.  This is a variant on number 7.  So many people lose weight, and decide to keep those larger clothes ‘just in case’.  Don’t do it!  Sell off those big ole’ clothes and do some Christmas shopping with the money.  Hopefully this will also motivate you to keep the weight off.
  9. Take Advantage of After Holiday Sales.  If you are one of those people that goes insane over holiday decorations, then save your spending for when things are 75 percent off the week after Christmas.  If you like to kick off the holiday season with decorating, then limit yourself to buying  just one ornament or one small candle.  Buy something small that is under ten dollars and will still bring cheer to your home.
  10. Remember Time Can Be More Important Than A Gift.  Have people on your list that you have no idea what to buy for them?  Then give them the gift of time.  Maybe your uncle doesn’t need another drill set, but would love to be taken out to lunch and spend the afternoon watching football with you.  Grandma probably doesn’t need more dish towels and candles but might just love if you baked a treat and maybe played some cards with her.  Just write up a note stating what your gift of time will be, put it in a little box, and wrap it up.  I am not saying you should write a note that says “your Christmas gift this year is 3 precious hours with ME”. But, maybe instead say “I would love to bring a special dessert/meal to you on (this date) and spend the day with you”.  Make sure you follow through though!

The holidays are meant to be a special time to celebrate and spend time together as a family.  It is not all about running around and stressing out about shopping.  If you plan ahead and truly think about the people you are buying for, you will find that not only will gift giving be easier, but paying for it will be easier also.

(As a side note, you can get a jump start on next year’s Christmas fund by selling gift cards that you received this year, but will not use!)

 

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

The Biz of Life October 19, 2011 at 9:28 am

Only take cash with you when you do holiday shopping. Leave the credits cards at home so you won’t be tempted to overspend, and will stay within budget.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Good tip Biz. Cash is definitely the best if you cannot control spending.

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter October 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

We tend to buy gifts throughout the year when they are on sale and we see them. We find doing up a list ahead of time helps us stay organized with this. By the time the holidays come we can just relax because we are all done.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:49 pm

That is great Miss T. I do buy a lot ahead of time, but I have to admit I have occasionally forgotten when I have bought!

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Krantcents October 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Along the lines of #10, my wife makes some of her gifts. It is personal and unique.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I love homemade gifts, especially food!

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retirebyforty@retireby40.org October 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Good tips. My wife makes Christmas cards every year and every recipient really appreciates it. We found some chocolate liquor at Costco and probably will get a few for out of town family members.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Congrats on making your own Christmas cards. I have gotten so bad that I haven’t even sent out regular cards in years. Since my kids aren’t small and photographed for the holidays anymore, I have really slacked.

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Christa October 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I always forget about my change — I’ll have to cash it in this year! I also plan to do a White Elephant gift exchange — the spending limit is $2, but you can wrap up stoff you no longer need or silly stuff for a fun exchange.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm

White elephant exchanges are always fun, and you can even do it at the last minute as everyone has something silly they can wrap and give away!

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Invest It Wisely October 19, 2011 at 11:15 pm

I actually don’t plan to spend too much this Christmas. The biggest thing will be the turkey dinners and stuff like that, and the time. That’s the most important anyways. ;)

Ask me again in a few years when my cousin’s kids get older and we potentially have kids of our own. :P

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Barb Friedberg October 20, 2011 at 12:30 am

Kris, Really good tips. When I cash in the change I usually come up with40 or more bucks!! Not bad.

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First Gen American October 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

I’ll second the time gift for the elderly. Many of their friends are no longer living, so having company is the best gift in the world. Time is also an awesome gift for parents with young children. I would love babysitting as a gift.

I started making a Xmas idea list. I keep thinking of good presents but then forget about them by the time the holidays roll around.

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Kris October 20, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I would have loved babysitting too, and a friend of mine actually did do that for me, until she had kids of her own! :)

My poor grandma was so old that everyone she knew was dead except family and neighbors. She was so lonely, but I think she also craved the company of ‘contemporaries’, but they were all gone.

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Forex Trader October 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

Great tips for the holiday season. People can also benefit from shopping online. It helps the unnecessary pile up of gifts you don’t really need but do end up buying because they are right in front of you. Having a set list of gifts to buy is a must during the holiday season. Thanks for sharing the additional links as well.

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Kris October 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Totally forgot about shopping online, that is fantastic. I discovered it when I had knee surgery one year and couldn’t walk around to shop. Everything just came to my door, and an online-shopper was born!

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Kris October 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Charlie, that sounds like a great activity for the kids actually!

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UltimateSmartMoney October 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Great list. I also try to cut down on the presents this year. I think many people go above their means when it comes to giving gifts. Set a budget for the holiday gifts and focus on your immediate family and close friends.

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Make Money taking Surveys January 8, 2012 at 6:48 am

Thanks again and looking forward for your post on making more. This looks like a great resource. I’m very interesting to read your blog. Thanks for posting this.

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apartments in Montreal August 31, 2012 at 11:52 am

Its a amazing site. i found a lot of interesting things on your blog. This design is incredible.its make me happy, my wife used to gift in every Christmas but she died in a road accident.thanks for nice sharing.

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Healthcare Supplies October 7, 2012 at 6:39 am

Many people go above their means when it comes to giving gifts. Set a budget for the holiday gifts and focus on your immediate family and close friends.

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