Eight Ways to Save Money at Christmas

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During the holiday season consumers are bombarded with ads suggesting that the more they buy the merrier they'll be. Many spend beyond their means and end up decking their halls in debt. Here are eight ideas to help you have a fun and festive Christmas without blowing your budget.


Don't Encourage Gift Inflation


Many people see giving an expensive gift as a generous gesture. However, adults who receive gifts from other adults tend to feel obligated to reciprocate with something of similar value, even if they can't really afford it. Over the years, expressions of generosity can lead to gift inflation among friends and relatives and make Christmas a difficult time for those on lower incomes. Try to get everyone you exchange gifts with to agree on a reasonable spending limit. 


Take Advantage of Online Discounts


Create an account with an affiliate website that offers you savings, discounts or cash back when you shop with major retailers. When you find something you intend to purchase, always search the web for any relevant coupon or voucher codes you could use. It's often possible to rack up multiple discounts. For example, you might find a toy on sale for half price, get another 5% off by shopping through an affiliate site and then use a 15% off voucher code at the checkout.


Give Homemade Gifts


If you cook, knit, sew or have other creative skills you can save money by making your own gifts. You'll be giving something unique that your friends or relatives couldn't buy for themselves. Many people would be happy to receive fragrant soaps, fruit liquors or crocheted mittens. Jars of homemade jam or pickles are great to have on hand as gifts for unexpected guests. Pay attention to packaging and labeling. Little touches like ribbons or calligraphy will make your gift seem special.


Plan Your Festive Food


In the weeks running up to Christmas, supermarkets encourage over-consumption by tempting customers with seasonal treats. Many people go into a food-shopping frenzy and buy more than they need. Much of this excess ends up wasted. If you're hosting a party, estimate how many snacks or hors d'oeuvres you'll need based on the number of guests and don't buy extra. If the food runs out you can always serve bowls of chips or nuts.


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Go Pot Luck and BYOB


If you've agreed to host Christmas dinner for a large group of friends and relatives there's no reason you should have to do all the work and foot the bill to boot. You can cook the main course. Ask everyone else to bring along a side dish or dessert and a bottle or two of their favorite holiday tipple. You'll save money and be less stressed. Clean-up will be easier since people will take home their serving dishes and left-overs.


Don't Overspend on Your Children


Set a reasonable budget for what you can spend on each child and stick to it. Keep in mind that preschoolers can have just as much fun playing with the packaging as what's inside. Talk to your post-Santa age kids about financial limits. If they want the latest expensive electronic gadget and it's beyond your means, ask if they would rather have one big gift than several small ones. If they agree, ask grandparents and other relatives to pool together with you to buy the must-have present.


Draw Names


Several weeks before Christmas, discuss gifts with your adult relatives. You may all agree that you tend to spend too much and buy each other things you don't really need or use. If that's the case, draw names to decide who buys for whom. Since you're only buying one gift you could spend a bit more, but it's a good idea to agree a price limit. Many people would rather have a single thoughtful present than a bunch of obligatory ones.


Play the Greedy Grinch Game


This free gift exchange is great for large Christmas gatherings. Ask everyone to bring along a gift-wrapped item. It should be something they have around the house that they never use but is still in good condition. The presents are stacked in a pile and everyone draws a number from a bag. Player 1 picks a gift and opens it. Player 2 has the choice to pick from the pile or steal player 1's gift. Player 3 can pick from the pile or steal from player 1 or 2 and so on. Whenever a person's gift is stolen, they can pick from the pile or steal from someone else. Anyone who doesn't like the item they end up with can rewrap it for next year.


Keep in mind that the spirit of Christmas and other winter festivals is all about giving, not about materialism. You can give of your time, your attention, your sympathy and many other well-appreciated intangibles. In some cases, the best gift you can give someone is releasing them from the obligation of buying a gift for you.

About the author: Seth Gowdy is the Sales Manager for Pivot Insurance and holds multiple insurance and securities' licenses. He has been part of the financial services industry for nearly 20 years. In his free time he enjoys being outdoors fishing, hiking, and geocaching with his wife and two children. Seth most enjoys helping clients with Pivot’s customized process and needs' calculators. You can reach Seth at 1-800-651-1953 or sgowdy@pivot.com.

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