The holidays are upon us. The year is almost over. Like it or not, the winter season is in full gear and more money changes hands in December than at any other time.
It’s also the best time of the year. College students come home for the holidays, relatives send well-wishes in the form of a greeting card, and families gather together by the fire on Christmas morning.
The last month of the calendar is the most lucrative for retailers. More money flows through the registers than at any time of the year. Parents and absent-minded boyfriends rush around for the last minute “perfect gift” and charities. I should know, I used to work in retail and was an absent-minded boyfriend.
It is also a time when people go crazy about the gifts. Some overspend, some are more purposeful with their giving, and many don’t really think twice about what they spend “for the children”.
Here are 5 ways that won’t make you look like a cheapskate but are smart ways to save money in December:
Cook In Bulk
My wife loves to cook. She also loves it when she doesn’t have to cook. It sounds confusing, but everyone needs to take a break from their passion. The problem she has is that her husband doesn’t cook. How do we get by when she takes a break? She cooks in bulk.
December is the best time of year to break out the big kettle and brew incredible amounts of soup. Stews and casseroles also become wonderful surprises when looking for a quick meal in the back of a fridge.
You could also try this: Set up the crock pot before church on Sunday and at dinnertime you can enjoy the juiciest, most tender pulled pork or chicken that mimic the best BBQs in St. Louis. Not only did you save money by purchasing the big family pack at the grocery store but you’ve created multiple meals from one day’s efforts.
Have A Party
This is a trick to keep yourself out of the restaurants just one more day of the month. Facilitating a holiday party at your home doesn’t have to be expensive, usually less than it takes a family of four to eat out, but it’s the side benefits that make a house party almost profitable!
The most important thing about hosting a holiday party is to ask your guests to bring their favorite dish. This is not a ploy to fill your fridge with their leftovers, although it is likely to happen. Think about it, what is the first thing people say when you invite them over to dinner? “What can I bring?”. Let them be part of the party.
You might also find the dishes they bring are the party starters. How many friendships were started around a table full of food and the phrase “This is wonderful cole slaw. I’d love to get the recipe from you?
Personalize Your Decorations
- Employ your kids to make colorful crafts out of paper plates
- Fill unused flower vases with candy canes and a colorful bow
- Wrap old picture frames with wrapping paper and hang them on the walls
Six-foot inflatable snowmen on the front lawn are cool, but not necessary when trying to save money in December. I think some of these suggestions will help you find ways to personalize the decorations around your home without busting your household budget.
Pay Cash For Christmas
Stop incurring debt. One of the most damaging things we do to our finances is putting Christmas on a card – a credit card. I have met so many people who almost finish paying of last year’s gifts by the time the next holiday season comes around. It is an expensive, recurring nightmare that should be avoided at all costs!
Instead, try to pay cash for Christmas. Even if you don’t have enough saved right now, take a look at your budget and see how much you can cut back. The more cash-flow your household purchases in December will directly effect our credit card statements in January.
[pullquote position=”left”]Ways to make next year a Cash Christmas, not a Crash Christmas[/pullquote]
- Make it a New Year’s Resolution to save $50 a month beginning in January
- Join a local credit union’s Christmas Club
- Create a Christmas Savings category in YNAB and let it work the magic for you.
This will help make next year a Cash Christmas, not a Crash Christmas
Cheat at gift-giving
Save money on the gifts you do buy. Here are some creative ways to cut back on Christmas Gift spending.
- Give to a tax-deductible charity for a relative
- Trade hotel points and airline miles for gift cards
- Instead of wrapped gifts, give your spouse a treat
These are all smart ideas when giving with the right spirit. Find a charity your relatives like and donate the amount of money you would have instead spent on that ugly sweater. Were you really thinking of turning miles into airline tickets while trying to scrape up the money for presents?
Get creative and think about what your spouse REALLY wants that isn’t sold in stores. Create a booklet of “I’ll watch the kids while you go out” coupons or “Hubby Does Laundry For A Week” vouchers. They don’t cost you a thing, won’t take up a bunch of space in the basement, and might be just what he/she wanted!
The bottom line is to enjoy the season and do the things that will leave fond memories for years to come.
There are hundreds of ideas floating around to help you save money in December, we’ve only scratched the surface.
Have fun with it, involve your friends and family, and remember that Christmas isn’t about trees and Elf, although they do add to the season.
Christmas is a celebration of Hope and the birth of Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe in Jesus then the holidays are a wonderful excuse to make the family gather together and reflect on all that you have been blessed with.
I pray you have a Happy Thanksgiving, a joyous debt-free Christmas, and a hopeful New Year