Money Saving Tips for an Early Christmas
Like that recurring cold sore brought on by “stress”, the Christmas shopping season will be here in less than six months. While you’re sucking down that cool pop and sitting in a lawn chair with your feet in a kiddie pool, the Debt Free Guys have come up with nine ways to prepare for the insatiable need to spend money you can’t really afford for people you don’t really like because of either the most important truth of all time or the biggest fairy tale in history. So check out the 6 money saving tips below and be prepared for the holidays before they arrive this year.
Create a Budget
By now you’re saying, “John, if this is another laundry list of money tips I already know, I’m outta here.” To that I say, “Let’s build the foundation, then we’ll get to the fun.”
You can’t create a spending plan of any kind without knowing how much money you can spend. First, decide what your Christmas (sorry!) shopping budget is. How much money can you spend? We decide our budget each year, then chop off 10 percent. This keeps our spending within reason, especially if we suffer from budget, along with waistline, creep over the holidays.
Create a List
“John!”, you’re saying. To that I say, “Hold on for one more day.”
The next thing you should do before you get all hopped up on egg nog is create a list of the people for whom you’ll buy your non-offensive, generic winter holiday gift. Most money success comes from proper financial planning. Know for whom you will buy and why. If the best reason you can come up with for putting someone on your holiday shopping list is, “Well . . . because . . . “, then they must go faster than two-thirds of the Republican presidential candidates.
Americans still have another month and a half in which we’ll travel, vacation and road trip. Armed with your budget and pertinent list of gift recipients, consider out-of-season, unique and nonnative gifts while you browse board walks, vacation destinations and rare gift and art stores. How creative is giving another sweater at Christmas, anyway? Let your loved one know you thought of them while you were halfway across the country or globe for “me time”. Buy them something they won’t find at their local mall or that Amazon can’t deliver via drone.
We all too often think about airline miles and points only when we travel and we usually travel in the summer. However, miles can be used in lieu of money for things more tangible than sand and sea. The airline industry is on an unhinged obsession to reduce seat space and create more fees than the government creates taxes. Who knows how much longer your airline miles will have value? Use miles to buy Christmas gifts. Log into your airline account and shop away on miles.
Don’t Be Late
As every woman knows, it’s not good to be late. If you wait till Black Friday for Christmas shopping deals, it’s too late.
Yes, retailers offer “money deals” throughout the holiday shopping season. What they don’t tell you is they increase prices in the fall, so they can “mark down” those items come Black Friday. Also, they reduce prices for some items, loss leaders, to get you into the store and increase prices for other items. Loss leaders can make you a loser. Avoid the psychological manipulation and crowds by finishing your Christmas shopping before the first Trick-or-Treater kicks down your door.
21st Century Shop
You may say, “well, duh!” to this suggestion, but think about it. It’s six months out. You have time to find what you want to buy for that special someone, then hunt and search and shop for the best deal. Create price alerts and wish lists. Price check regularly. Sign up for email updates. Retailers often send discounts and promotions to their “favorite” customers. Place items in your virtual shopping cart until you receive a notice that the price has dropped. This is a strategy retailers use to seal the deal. Do all this until you find the right gift at the right price.
Xmas Club Account
Open a Christmas club account. Go to your local bank or, preferably, credit union, and open a Christmas or Holiday Club Account. Direct Deposit some money from each pay check into your new account, so the money is there when it’s time to spend. If done right, you won’t miss this money from each paycheck and you’ll avoid credit cards this holiday season. Granted, you’ll get less interest in a savings account than your teenager, but this isn’t a get rich quick money plan. We’re giving to others.
Long-time readers know we’re no fan of gift cards, though they do have their place. Unlike those at the extreme of both political parties, we don’t expect everyone to be like us. If you’re a gift card buyer or have a recipient on your list who prefers gift cards, buy your gift cards now. Sites such as GiftCards.com and GiftCardGranny.com rotate promotions for various gift cards throughout the year. Between now and the giving season, you can find the perfect gift card for the perfect person at a deep discount.
We don’t want to see you on the Learning Channel anytime soon. Our recommendation is to stock up now on holiday items you know you’ll soon buy anyway. Such items include, holidays cards, decorations and lights. Amazon.com, OverStock.com and nearly any online retailer has an inventory of Christmas items at bargain basement prices. With the advent of the internet, gone are the days of shopping and saving on such items on December 26th. Pour your favorite summer sangria and stock up on your Christmas decorations today only on item you need (does anyone really need a Christmas wreath for their car?).
As you can see, there are many options to start saving money today for Christmas at, well, Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever excuse you use to gain end-of-the-year weight. The key is to have a strategy. We succeed with good preparation and strategy. We hope you can put several of these money saving tips to use and conquer the holidays before they arrive so you can enjoy them with the ones you love.