Paycheck Chronicles

Christmas Already? Ways To Save (Installment 1)


It is nearly October, and the stores are fast filling with holiday items.  I've got a lot of ways to keep Christmas more affordable.  The list is pretty overwhelming, though, so I'm trying to break it down by subject.  Today you get budgeting, tomorrow is gifts, and then we'll have travel, decorating, and frugal fun.  I can't wait to hear what good ideas my readers have!

  1. Look at your budget.  Have you saved anything already?  How much can you put aside out of each of the 6 remaining paychecks before Christmas?
  2. Gather up all the loose change around the house:  on your dresser, in the car and near the clothes washer.  Pool it all together to add to your Christmas fund.
  3. Use eBay or Craigs list to clear out your clutter and make Christmas cash at the same time.  If you don't know how, ask a friend. It isn't hard and it works beautifully!
  4. If you have a rewards credit card, see about cashing in your points for gift cards.  Use the cards to supplement your budget.
  5. Make a list of holiday expenses.  In addition to gifts, be sure to include cards (and postage), extra food, travel, special clothing (or cleaning), babysitters, and any holiday traditions, such as Nutcracker tickets.
  6. List everyone for whom you think you would like to buy a present.  Then, figure out how much you can spend on each person.  Consider slashing your list dramatically, or figuring out an inexpensive yet thoughtful gift for the bulk of the list.
  7. Seriously think about how much you are giving your kids.  My children already have way too many toys, and every birthday and Christmas we are blessed with presents from grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends.  Think about how little you can give your kids and still feel happy.
  8. Talk to your family and friends.  Maybe they'll agree to draw names, or only give gifts to the children, or put a dollar limit on gifts.  Try to remember that it really isn't about the presents.
  9. Think about group gifts:  instead of one gift for each person in the family, but one gift for the whole family.  A board game, a zoo membership or a Blockbuster gift card can fit in any budget and make you feel like you've included the whole family.
  10. Inventory your Christmas stash:  most of us have picked up a few things through the year, and you need to make sure that you use them. Cards purchased last January, gift wrap that is still in the box from your last PCS, and gifts hidden in a tub somewhere.  Pull them all out and make a list so you remember what you have.
  11. Plan ahead to limit your postage.  See the Postal Service's list of holiday mailing dates for 2008 and plan to get your packages in the mail early so that you can use parcel post instead of priority mail. Think about the weight of gifts if you will have to send them.  My first holiday overseas, I spent more on postage than the presents themselves (and several were damaged during shipping.)
  12. Consider postcards instead of cards in envelopes (27 cents postage instead of 42 cents), or send ecards instead.
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