Christmas is the season of giving, but buying gifts should never sink you into debt. By following a few simple tips, you can keep your Christmas spending on track.
* Make (and Keep) a Budget *
Before you can know if you’ve overspent, you have to know how much you can afford to spend. Make a list of all the people you want to shop for this Christmas. Don’t forget to include gifts for teachers, coworkers, neighbors, or other acquaintances.
Next, write down estimates of what you would like to spend for each person. Add up the numbers and see if the total is an amount you will be able to afford. If not, readjust the numbers until you find the best amount for each person.
Once you have set your budget, keep a list of the estimated amount to spend next to each person’s name. When you buy a gift, write down its actual cost. It’s okay to go over a little for one person if you come in under for another.
For example: You plan to spend $30 on each of your two siblings. The earrings for your sister cost $34, but the DVD set your brother wants is only $24. You can buy these gifts and stay within your budget.
* Aim for Thoughtful Over Extravagant *
Your family and friends do not expect you to go into debt over Christmas presents. If you can’t afford to spend as much as you would like, give something unique. Fill an inexpensive photo collage frame with memorable photos. Arrange a variety of someone’s favorite candy bars in a box with a ribbon tied around each one. Give boxes of homemade cookies or other treats. Thoughtful gifts don’t always cost a lot, but the effort will be appreciated.
* Give One Gift to Each Family *
Buying gifts for each of your grown siblings or friends and everyone in their families can get expensive fast. Instead agree to buy each other one family gift, or alternatively to buy a group gift for the kids and a couple gift for the adults. Board games, puzzles, DVDs, event tickets, and personalized Christmas ornaments all make great family gifts.
* Shop Early, But Not on Impulse *
Shopping early, or throughout the year, can be a good way to save money. If you see the perfect gift for someone and it happens to be on store clearance, buy it and stash it away until Christmas. Be careful though about buying presents early if you aren’t sure about them.
It can be tempting to buy something simply because it is a great deal and later find something better that you just can’t pass up. Now you have two gifts for someone, but decide that’s okay because the first one was such a good deal anyway. Besides, you paid for it so long ago that it doesn’t feel like part of your Christmas budget anymore – but it still is!
* Plan for Shipping, Wrapping, and Other Expenses *
Shipping costs can quickly blow your budget if you haven’t planned for them, particularly if you use expedited shipping to get them there by Christmas. Be sure to ship Christmas gifts well in advance or have them sent directly from an online store that offers free shipping. Often the cost of adding gift wrapping to the gift will be cheaper than the cost of wrapping and shipping the present yourself.
Gift wrap, bags, tags, and bows are another expense that should be added to your Christmas budget. It’s easy to overlook these little expenses during the holidays, but combined they can add up to a larger amount than you expect.
* Stock Up After Christmas *
After Christmas sales are a great way to save on gift wrap, tags, decorations, and other Christmas items that can be used next year. Christmas candlesticks, ornaments, mugs, or photo frames all make good gifts for teachers, coworkers, or to be given in gift exchanges at parties.
As with any shopping, planning is the key to getting the most for your money. Plan a budget, start shopping early, and try to find simple, yet thoughtful gifts. Christmas is a time to build memories with friends and family, not build up credit card debt.