As the countdown to Christmas continues, it can be hard to keep focused on our financial goals. With so many pressures to spend, the holiday season can change from joyful to stressful all too easily. Here are five tips to save money and keep on track with your financial goals without sacrificing fun and festivity:
1. Make do
‘Creativity is the mother of invention’. Studies have shown we’re more creative when we have some constraints rather than unlimited funds, and the festive season is the perfect time to get creative! Make your own decorations, bake or make gifts, find ways to make the holiday season personal.
One of my strongest childhood memories is of waking up to find ‘Easter bunny’s footprints’ throughout the house into the garden. All this cost was a stencil cut out of paper and some baby powder for the prints on the carpet, and paper cut-outs on the lawn, but more than the number of chocolates hidden in the yard, it was this extra touch that made that Easter exciting.
Pinterest is full of fantastic craft and gift ideas, but do-it-yourself crafts and cooking can often be more expensive than store-bought if you’re not careful.
To really save, before searching for ideas, take a look at what you already have in stock – any craft supplies you might have, any gifts you already have in store, any ingredients – then research what you can make with those things. For example, if you have felt or cardboard, look specifically for ‘felt crafts’ or ‘cardboard decorations’ so you can find crafts you can make without having to buy too many extra supplies.
2. Feast creatively
For food, try sites like Taste where you can specify what ingredients you have on hand and find out what you can make. Think outside the box – you don’t have to cook necessarily ‘traditional’ holiday food to have an amazing feast.
A Presentation is key – use your best china, napkins (paper or cloth!) and decorate. The simplest of fare can be transformed into special through nice décor and candles, and be made festive with seasonal items. Even old or broken decorations can be upcycled into tablescapes – a single strand of fairy lights, some tinsel, or a few branches of an old Christmas tree can make an elegant centerpiece.
If you have flowers or greenery like holly in the garden, bring it inside! Even if the best you can find is some sticks and branches lying around your neighborhood, bring them in – you can create a stunning centerpiece with some scrunched tissue paper blossoms, or by hanging some baubles from a collection of branches in a vase.
For every dollar, you save with these tips, make sure to transfer an equivalent amount to your debt reduction or savings goal. A saving isn’t a true saving until it’s actually in your account – otherwise, it’s all too easy to fritter it away!
3. Remember the meaning of holidays
The best part about the holidays is being together with the people you love. Hospitality costs next to nothing. Rather than buying gifts for friends, why not host an afternoon tea? The ingredients for a simple sponge cake cost less than a dollar.
If you have children or grandchildren, why not spend time baking or making crafts with them rather than buying yet another gift? The best holidays are messy, fun, and full of laughter.
Get out the board games or a pack of cards. Watch movies – you can often rent them for free from your local library, and many libraries offer extended borrowing periods over the holidays. Think about what you can do, rather than what things you can buy.
The most enjoyable Christmas my family recently enjoyed was one where I put together a video of lots of old photos and even slides, and we played games like ‘Celebrity Heads’. I can’t remember a single gift that was exchanged, but I remember the laughter of young and old!
4. Give yourself a present
My husband and I managed to pay off our mortgage and become completely debt free in just over 4 years, in part thanks to our restraint even during the holiday season. While in the past we had bought each other gifts for Christmas, we decided we wanted to get out of debt as fast as possible – and ended up transferring the amount we would have spent on gifts for each other towards our home loan instead.
Although unwrapping gifts is always nice, we got much more joy out of owning another piece of our home and taking steps towards our freedom from debt.
If this is taking it too far, you can always scale down your gift giving and transfer an equivalent amount to your debt reduction or savings goal.
5. Grab some festive motivation
The anticipation of any holiday is one of the most exciting parts, and I’ve always loved advent calendars was a fun way of counting down the days.
Why not apply this kind of thinking to your debt reduction as well?
Advent calendars are often drastically reduced in price after the start of December. Pick one up, and set yourself a goal– such as reducing your mortgage by $2500, or reducing your student or other debt by $500. Divide the final goal by the number of days on your calendar (usually 24 or 25) and work out how much you need to pay to get each reward – $100 or $20 for example.
If chocolate’s not your thing, think about what other little luxuries might motivate you, and create your own ‘calendar’ using graph paper.
While cutting down on unnecessary spending is an unavoidable part of eliminating debt, sometimes allowing yourself a few little luxuries (like a new lipgloss or a takeaway coffee or an app for your phone) can prevent you from a big blowout (like a makeover or an expensive restaurant dinner or a new phone!)
Have a joyous, safe, and debt-free Christmas!
Author Bio: Sarah is an adventurer and blogger at enrichmentality.com
After achieving financial independence at the age of 30, Sarah resigned from her position as a lecturer in Japanese linguistics to travel the world with her husband. Her blog, Enrichmentality, is dedicated to helping people learn the language of money and enrich their futures. Sarah believes that the best way to achieve a more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and equitable society is for more people to become empowered, and that enrichment is not just about money, but about living a rich life more generally. You can find out more about Sarah, including how she paid off her mortgage in just over 4 years and gained financial independence at enrichmentality.com/about-me/