The holiday season, filled with obligations both of the time and money kind, can be stressful for those on shoestring budgets. That’s why we reached out to some of our favorite personal finance bloggers to get their tips for managing to save money and survive the holidays. We left our question open-ended, whether it was about gift shopping or home entertaining or having a holiday side hustle for extra cash.
Enjoy these tips and be sure to thank the bloggers who shared by visiting their blogs and social media. Which tip will you take action on this week?
My favorite tip for saving during Christmas is to set a budget. I know it may be too late to do that this year, but you can still set a limit for what you will spend per person. Doing so will help guide your spending so you don’t go overboard and end up with a nasty credit card bill in January. You don’t want to stop with setting a limit though – actually take the time now to set a budget for next years gift-giving. The holidays come at the same time each year, so it’s not a surprise. By setting a budget and saving now, you can shop with confidence come next year. – John Schmoll, founder of Frugal Rules (Twitter, Facebook)
My first piece of advice is spend some time automating. If big corporations can utilize the internet to their advantage, so should we! For our household, we automate all our household expenses (toilet paper, cosmetics, etc.) by setting ourselves up with Amazon’s free service Subscribe & Save. Everything is delivered for free and since we have more than 5 subscriptions, we save an additional 15% on everything. We ran the numbers and realized we save a little over $1,000 over the entire year. We obviously save plenty of travel time since everything is delivered to our door.My second piece of advice is a small way to save big. Set aside a jar this holiday season and place $10 from your next paycheck. Make sure the money is set aside and out of immediate reach. On the next paycheck, increase the amount and put $11 in that jar. Continue to increase your savings by another dollar each paycheck throughout the entire year. By the end of the year, if you have a paycheck every other week, then you’ll have $585 without even noticing a change in your lifestyle!My third piece of advice is bit more frugal and so, I might imagine being less accepting of a broader audience. The advice here is to find frugal gifts. Often, we spend money in a quick act without much thought. You can copy my approach and incorporate less expensive gifts that take more time. Trust me, they’ll be better received. One example we did this year was create a memory jar. We’ve been putting our favorite memories throughout the year and probably have about 300 slips of paper in that jar. We plan on reading everything over the Holiday break and we’re more excited about that than receiving any other gifts. I’m guessing it will take a few hours to read through and remember all the fun moments. – Matt, Distilled Dollar (Twitter)
The best tip I have over the holidays is to look for ways to do things as a group. One of the best things, and my personal favourite, that you can do is host a potluck dinner, or an appetizer night with your friends. Have everyone over to your place, and make it so everyone brings a dish. You are the one providing the location so it can be up to you if you want to contribute to the meal as well. It’s a lot easier than putting all of the burden on yourself for hosting a full meal during the busiest time of the year. Plus there’s the added benefit that you are getting to see everyone at once and it cuts down on your time during the hectic season. It’s really a win-win for everyone. Happy holidays! – Andrew Daniels, Family Money Plan (Twitter, Facebook)
When I was paying off debt, the holidays were the most lucrative time for me. I worked at holiday parties as a server, coat check, and more. Also pet sitting was huge during this time. And with Uber, Lyft, Instacart and more, it’s easier than ever to get started. – Melanie Lockert, Dear Debt (Twitter)
My favorite way to save money for the holidays is twofold: DIY presents as much as possible and pay for them with credit card reward points. DIY presents are more affordable, can be made in bulk, and are more personal. They do still cost money, though, and that’s why I use a rewards credit card. I save up my cash back points from the entire year to pay off Christmas presents–so it’s like (financially, at least) Christmas never happened! – Mrs. Picky Pincher (Twitter)
Use your credit card rewards to help offset your holiday shopping or travel costs. If you’ve been saving your points all year, now is a great time to keep your holiday spending in check by redeeming those rewards. – Sophia Bera, CFP – Gen Y Planning (Twitter)
My advice is if you are going to spend money at least make sure your money goes 5-10% further than your peers. To ensure success you have to become a Retail Rambo by shopping with the Money Guy Triple Threat action plan: 1) Use shopping portals for discounts and rebates (Ebates.com, Upromise.com, and your credit card shopping portals are good places to start) 2) Maximize discounts and coupons (RetailMeNot and Google searches can yield big results when looking for coupon/promo codes) 3) Responsibly take advantage of points and cash rebates from your credit card providers (love my Fidelity Rewards Visa (2% back on everything) and Discover Card (you had me at 5% cash back at Amazon)) – Brian Preston, CPA/PFS, CFP(r) – Money Guy (Twitter)
Develop a Sinking Fund for Holiday Savings… If you’re surprised and frustrated with the money spent during the holiday season this year, make a plan to save each month for Christmas in 2017. For example, if you ended up spending $1,200 on gifts, parties and events this December, plan to save $100 per month starting in January so next year you can welcome the holidays instead of cursing them. – Andy Hill, Marriage Kids and Money (Twitter)
I read a psychology study once that showed that people are not any happier when they receive two gifts versus one. Growing up, I always saw that people commonly gave a gift and then a smaller gift such as socks, gloves, etc. as an extra gift. Turns out that there the receiver could care less. I now make it a habit to not tack on any extras to my gifts and save money that way. Happy holidays! – Julie (Twitter)
I would recommend tracking all your expenses throughout the years (I personally use http://Mint.com ). Based on the information you gather you can set holiday budgets (for gifts, travel, food, etc) based on previous years holiday expenses. Then with this information I would recommend setting up auto transfers bi monthly to a separate savings account in order to meet your saving goals for the holidays. Plan in January and automate your savings throughout the year. (Saving $1000 for the holidays is only $42 bi monthly). Capital One 360 savings allows for multiple sub savings accounts which makes it easy to meet all your savings goals. You also earn .75% in interest! 2. When shopping know what you want before you go to the store. Stick to your budget! Online: use the “Honey” chrome app for coupon codes and “price blink” to ensure you are purchasing the best deal. – Gary, DebtFreeClimb (Twitter)
My favorite holiday saving tip, borrowed from http://Frugalwoods.com , is to use postcards instead of fancy prints for your holiday greetings. Saves on print and post, and generates less waste with no envelopes. – Cubert, Abandoned Cubicle (Twitter)
In terms of the holidays, my favorite “hack” is to save for it well in advance. Christmas comes at the same time every year. In order to avoid stress to my budget, I try to think what I’m likely to spend during the holidays, then start saving for it beginning in January. If you spend $500 each year for example, saving $41 per month over 12 months makes things much more manageable. I automate these savings as well, so I don’t even notice that money is getting saved away. Then when Christmas comes, I have a stack of cash that can be spent on gifts. – Financial Panther, FinancialPanther (Twitter)