Thanksgiving is still weeks away, but I’ve already got bags of Christmas purchases piling up. At the rate I’m going, I don’t stand a chance against the Black Friday sales. With three young kids, my game plan is to stay home that day, but I’ve got an aunt (an oh-so-wonderful aunt) who braves the crowds to hit the sales to pick up her purchases and the items on my list for me. Great sales and my wonderful aunt Lisa, I’m a very blessed woman!
It sounds wonderful when being told as a story, but the reality of it may not be so great. If I’ve already spent a decent chunk of money on Christmas gifts before the snow even starts to fly, how much will I end up spending by the time Christmas actually arrives? If I buy everything that catches my eye, I’m bound to spend a small fortune.
You’re probably thinking that not only will I run out of space to store the gifts, I’ll also run out of money, too. That, though, is where (I hope) you’re wrong. True, in my tiny 2-bedroom house, storage will be an issue. Truth be told, I’ve already been storing some purchases in my minivan. But run out of money, I doubt it. I’m not independently wealthy, but I do have a little tool that I use to keep me from blowing my income and savings and maxing out my credit card. It’s called a budget.
It’s not just my regular monthly household budget. It’s my “Christmas budget”. I have a certain amount of money set aside to spend on Christmas gifts, including cars, postage, baking supplies, etc. When it’s gone, I’m done! Well, maybe not completely done. If there’s any extra money in the “miscellaneous” category of my regular household budget, I could spend that on gifts if I wanted to, but if not, I’m done. Period.
A Christmas budget is actually a really simple tool. Just decide how much you’re going to spend on Christmas total, and don’t spend more than that amount. You will need to make lists though. List the people who you’ll but gifts for, people who you’ll send cards to, people you’ll tip, and people you’ll be giving baked goods to.
Set a certain amount to spend per person on gifts. When figuring how much to spend on cards, don’t forget to factor in the postage needed to mail them. If you’re low on cash but still want to tip the garbage man, a small tip would be sufficient if it included a handwritten note of thanks. After all, it’s the thought that counts.
Anyway, back to my shopping. Yes, I’ve already bought a lot of gifts, but I didn’t really splurge. I got my kids a bowling set at Walmart for $6 (the last one), some clothes, games for $2 each, $1 stuffed animals, and other pretty inexpensive things. My secret? Clearance. I spent $1.80 on an outfit for my son when I bought it on clearance from Kohl’s. My youngest daughter’s hoodie? $4.97 from Kohl’s on clearance. The Dora backpack? $8.99 on clearance from JCPenney’s. Clearance is great!
One more tip: www.RetailMeNot.com. I don’t buy anything online without checking for a discount code for the store first on RetailMeNot. I’ve gotten free shipping and 20% off at JCPenney.com, free shipping and 15% off at Kohls.com, and so many other discounts. I’ve been so spoiled by RetailMeNot that I actually abandon my shopping cart at online retailers who I can’t find a discount code for.
Well, with my secrets out in the open now, I probably sound… I’d like to say “frugal”, but I’m probably just plain “cheap”. Nonetheless, I’m saving money and can afford to buy more gifts for more people by being so frugal, I mean cheap. It’s become a challenge, or a game even, to find good deals on gifts, and in this economy, that’s one game I intend to win!
Article by Randi Millward