Following my post from last week about maintaining your finances through the holidays, today I wanted to talk about maintaining your financial sanity through the holidays with my top 5 ways to keep your holiday gift buying sane.
Try not to fall victim to the pressure, image, and most of all, chaos. All three are expensive, but chaos is perhaps the most expensive. The key is planning and being proactive not reactive.
Running around last minute, forgetting someone on the list, seeing a better gift after you bought something else already are all expensive. By the same token, we don’t want to take all the excitement and fun out of gift-giving by planning it into tedium.
Here are my five tips to find a balance between boring and bankrupt:
Decide on a TOTAL amount for all your holiday gifts this year. Include anyone who gets a gift, not a tip (here’s my holiday tipping article). Do not start by figuring out what you’re going to get each niece and nephew. Start with a total amount, THEN decide what to get each niece and nephew once you have a total amount. The total amount will be in the back of your mind and you will modify your spending accordingly, I promise, it works. Keep the total number in mind when you shop.
- Monitor your gift buying with an app or list – Make a list and check it twice! – every time you make a purchase, subtract the gift cost from your total. Use an app like Best Budget (Iphone) or Expense IQ (Android) and make a separate Holiday budget for gifts. You can also use good old-fashioned paper and pencil. See where you are through the month and slow down if you are reaching your limit or rethink specific gifts for specific people.
- Buy in bulk. If you have a lot of parties where you need to bring a gift or service people you want to acknowledge, buy a bunch of the same gift. Decide on this year’s service and host gifts like chocolates or a bottle of wine, and buy enough for all the people and occasions you have. It’s okay to give the same thing to different hosts and the mere fact that you do not have to go out just before the party and “grab a gift” will save you from overpaying at the last minute.
- Buy as much as you can at the same time. If you have 5 items to buy from Amazon, buy them at the same time to qualify for free shipping. Same with other sites. Go to your favorite store once and buy all the gifts you intend to get from that store. It saves on the “chaos” factor (not to mention gas and parking), which saves you money because you’re not buying at the last minute and feeling out of control.
- Get a few (2-3) extra generic gifts. Maybe 2 for adults and one extra child’s gift for random gift giving that comes up (a sibling comes to a party, “didn’t know cousin Sandy would be here”, your third cousin suddenly remembers your child at Christmas, etc.)
All these tips serve to bring down the level of chaos and last minute buying, which keeps YOU calm, which in turn keeps your wallet safer. Chaos at any time of the year is expensive. It causes, take-out, parking tickets, late fees, and last minute purchases of all kinds. People are especially vulnerable to it at this time of year. BANISH CHAOS! BOOST YOUR WALLET!