I was one of those people that would wait until the last minute to shop for gifts and then battle against the crowds. After one particularly stressful year, I decided it was the last time I was going to put myself through that ordeal. I wanted to spend less time stressing about what to get everyone and worrying about whether or not I could afford everything. Instead, I wanted to enjoy the season away from work and study.
The following year, I implemented these strategies. They have not only saved me money but also reduced the strain of the holiday season.
1. Have a gift plan and stick to it
You can find a template of the gift plan I use below, available to download for free. I print one list out for family members, one for friends and one for colleagues. The list not only helps plan the current Christmas but is also used as a guide when organising next year’s budget.
Calculating the estimated total amount you’re willing to spend on gifts is easy. Start with writing down the names of everyone you would like to purchase a gift for. After this set a budget for each person. Your budget is the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on them.
For those in my immediate family, I set an amount between $30-$50 and for anyone not in my immediate family, I set a smaller amount around $10-$20. I set a budget of $5-$10 for colleagues. Once you’ve allocated a budget for each person, you can calculate your estimated gift total.
When shopping, don’t exceed the estimated budget for each individual. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment and buy expensive gifts for everyone. Having a budget organised in advance will help establish exactly how much you’re able to spend, based on your current financial status. You shouldn’t be spending the first few weeks of the new year trying to pay off debt accrued over Christmas.
2. Start purchasing as soon as possible
After calculating the estimated total, spend some time brainstorming gift ideas that fit within the allocated budget. I tend to start purchasing gifts in October. Once a gift plan has been written up and I know what I’ll be purchasing everyone for Christmas, I search out relevant sales (online/in catalogues) and purchase. The earlier you start, the greater the likelihood that a sale will turn up over the next two months that specifically meets your needs. I’ve saved up to 40% on gifts with this method.
When selecting gifts, reduce stress by purchasing items that are similar in nature or can be purchased from the same store. I tend to stick with a set of pajamas or a pair of slippers for family members, although this can be hard if you can’t confirm sizes beforehand. In this case, you could opt for a perfume (most budget chemists will sell perfume around $5-$15) or skincare gift sets.
When it comes to purchasing for colleagues, my tip is to wait until chocolates are half price at the supermarket. Make sure you have a cool place to store them so they don’t melt. If you don’t have a cool place, try to purchase these within 3 weeks of Christmas.
Having a plan and knowing exactly what you’ll be buying each individual before you get to the store, reduces any unnecessary spending made by impulse shopping.
3. Purchase for next year, this year
I’ve saved a ton of money by purchasing decorations/ornaments, wrapping paper, cards, lights and a new tree immediately after Christmas. Stores tend to try and sell off any remaining Christmas items at a discounted rate soon after, but make sure to shop around to get the best bargain. I’ve purchased gift wrap that sells for $4 (prior Christmas) at a price of $0.99 (a week after Christmas). I then store everything away in plastic tubs, ready for next year.
4. Start saving for next year — now
After you’ve purchased all of the gifts on your list, calculate the exact total amount spent. This will be your indicator as to how much you should expect to spend next year. Divide that total by 11 months and start saving for next year, this year.
An example would be if you spent $407 on gifts this year. Divide that number by 11 months. That equates to only $37/month in savings. Saving $37 each month is a lot easier than having to come up with $407, one month before Christmas.
Did you spend less money than initially expected? In that case, you may want to use any remaining money on grocery shopping for Christmas dinner or better yet, a bit of pampering for yourself. After all, there should be some sort of reward for being so organised!
If you were not able to stay within your budget, go over the figures and examine areas where you could have improved. Did you splurge on certain people that you shouldn’t have? Did you forget someone on your initial list? This may help you reexamine your expectations for next year and allow you to organise a savings plan that may be more suitable.
Early preparation is the key to reducing stress. I hope these tips help you save a bit of money over the holiday season. And if you didn’t do so well with organisation this year, it’s okay – it’s the perfect time to start planning for next year.