5 Ways To Save On Gifts This Holiday Season
Can you believe the holiday season is already here? It seems the older I get the faster time moves. Whether you’re ready or not Thanksgiving is this week and Christmas is right on its heels. Personally, I love the holidays especially the tacky Christmas music. Unfortunately, the holidays can be extremely stressful for some and that stress revolves around money and giving gifts. With the two biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, coming up we need to address some things.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American is going to spend over $700 on gift and goodies for their loved ones and friends. The sad reality is the average American can’t actually afford to spend that $700 so they use debt in the form of credit cards to cover them. This, of course, leads to a whole series of problems down the road. The cycle then starts all over again in the fall of the next year.
This next part is going to make me sound like the Scrooge but I have a point to it so stay with me. I enjoy receiving gifts just like any of you but I believe we tend to take it a little too serious. As a society, we’ve made it the precedent that you MUST give a gift and if you don’t you aren’t as good as someone that did. Why is this? In a weird roundabout way, I think it is people trying to keep up with the Jones’. You see what a sibling got your parents and you just have to out-do it. When you do this you often outspend your budget and put yourself into a bad situation financially.
I know that may have seemed a little scatterbrained but it’s something I think everyone should think about. Do you think less of someone based on the gift they gave you? To be brutally honest I don’t think less of the person. I do however sometimes wonder what they were thinking and wish they would have saved their money.
Now that I’m off my soapbox I want to share with you 5 ways to save on those gifts this holiday season.
1) Set Gift Giving Expectations
We all want to avoid those awkward moments when someone gives this expensive gift to you that overshadows what you give them. More importantly, staying away from what I discussed above in keeping up with the Jones’ is a must. The best way to do this is setting expectations and spending amounts for gifts. We’ve done this for family Christmas as well as other get-togethers like a Secret Santa party.
Setting the limit to $25, for example, will do a couple of things. First, it will keep everyone in the same ballpark which will remove the Jones effect. Secondly, it will keep you within your budget and not allow you to overspend. If you know you have to get ten $25 gifts that means you’ll spend $250 max. If that’s over your budget, then lower the limit to $15.
On the other hand, if you have saved up more then raise that number. Like everything, build a plan that works for your financial situation.
2) Don’t Fall Victim To the Advertisements
I truly believe that advertisements cause people to overspend more than anything around the holidays. These big companies use hundreds of millions of dollars to figure out ways to make you buy things. They use psychologists to study your behaviors and have big data that allows them to target you specifically.
Advertisements are everywhere and frankly, they are unavoidable. Unless you live in a cardboard box you are going to be exposed to them. In front of me right now I have ads that came in the mail, ads in my email inbox, ads when I scroll social media, and even on my streaming music service. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!
You need to be conscious of this. Remind yourself that it is these company’s goals to make money and the best way to do that is by getting you to make a spontaneous purchase. Don’t fall victim to pretty, well-designed advertisements and allow them to make you overspend.
3) Buy Useful Gifts
As I mentioned above this is a huge problem I have with the holidays. Let me preface this section with a quick disclosure: I’m thankful for each and every gift that I receive. That being said, I want everyone I know to make smart financial decisions. That’s why I have this website right? In my eyes, buying a gift that isn’t useful to me is the same as throwing your money in a garbage disposal. This includes novelties as well. Sure they may be cute and funny at the time but please Aunt Sally, save your money.
The obvious thing to do here (that few people do) is to actually ask people what they need. That’s not rocket science, just common sense. I hate wasting money and I never want to buy a gift for someone that they don’t actually want or need.
An example of this is a couple of years ago when I gave my sister and brother-in-law cash as a Christmas gift. Cash may seem thoughtless, but I knew that they were wanting to remodel their deck and it was going to be expensive. I’m not going to pay for the whole thing obviously but I chipped in. They now have a new beautiful deck and I can say that my gift went to good use. This was a win in my eyes and something I think we should all strive for when giving gifts.
4) Use Your Talents
A ton of you are missing out on using the talents that you already have to create an awesome gift. I love homemade gifts. Personally, they mean a little extra to me. If you are good in the kitchen then why not make an assortment of goods then give them out. My cousin did this and her baskets included things like banana bread, caramel corn, and puppy chow. I love food (we all do) so this was a great gift.
Another example is my aunt made me pillowcases and a t-shirt quilt. She embroidered the pillowcases with Wichita State (my alma mater) and used WSU colors on the quilt. It was another awesome gift.
If you can build something out of wood or metal then why not do it? We all have different talents so use them to give great gifts!
5) Plan Ahead
The last and most practical advice I can give to anyone is to plan ahead. Yes, I understand this is obvious but why don’t people do it? The holidays come every year at the same exact time. It has become normal to wait until the last second to think about what money we are going to need for gifts. By then it is too late. Financing gifts should frankly be illegal. It puts you in such a bad situation for little to no benefit.
Don’t be a part of the majority and plan ahead. Technology allows you to see how much you’ve spent in the past years so why not use that to plan? If you know you spent $750 last year on gifts then why not start saving for $800 in August? Having a solid plan and starting early is going to get rid of the stress and make your holidays that much better.
Wrapping it Up
The holidays are about enjoying time with our loved ones and just relaxing. We allow money to bring so much unnecessary stress into our lives and it is only magnified around this time. By taking the time to practice the 5 tips above you’ll be able to make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.
No longer do you need to keep up with the Jones’ or go to the pawn shop to raise extra cash. Plan accordingly, make smart purchases, and form memories that last a lifetime.