Friday, July 23, 2010
While as a family we certainly try to emphasize the non-material aspects of Christmas, the holiday still remains a comparatively large expense. Between gifts, travel, special food, decorations, and other incidentals, the costs add up quickly. I do like to make the holidays a special and extraordinary time, and so it is worth it to me to plan ahead. As with so many things, a little planning ahead can save a lot of money in the long run.
Here are some of the areas I'm thinking about now:
Saving up - There is a stereotype that is probably all too true of families spending on the holidays first and then dealing with the credit card bills later. That is not the way we live, so I plan for the whole year how we will pay for holiday expenses. Right now, the way I do it is to save up little bits of extra money we receive throughout the year in a separate account. Whether it's an unexpected refund, earnings from a consignment sale, or a check from Ebates, I keep it separate from our regular budget so that I won't spend it.
Collecting Swagbucks and gift cards - All throughout the year I use the search engine Swagbucks for internet searches and save up points to cash in for Amazon gift cards. I started this last fall, after reading about other bloggers doing the same, and I was very pleased with the results. From just a few months of searches and a couple of referrals, I earned about $25 in gift cards last year. This year I have been doing it the whole year, so I hope to earn quite a bit more. I also save up other gift cards that I earn from prescription coupons or other store promotions.
Collecting stocking stuffers/other gifts - As I shop clearance sales and yard and consignment sales the whole year, I try to keep future gifts in mind. Stocking stuffers, especially, are easy to pick up for pennies at clearance sales throughout the year. School supply sales going on right now are a perfect place to pick up art supplies for pennies. I also don't mind giving nice used toys as gifts to my own children, so I look for items they might like at yard and consignment sales.
Making lists and ideas, watching sales - While I'm not like some super-organized people who have their Christmas shopping finished by Thanksgiving, I do try to jot down gift and decoration ideas early on. That way, if I see the perfect item or come across a great sale, I know what I might need.
Are you preparing for the holiday season this early?
This post is linked to Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom and Mrs. Moneysaver.
Photo by avanzaro.