Saving Money During The Holidays

I’m back! Did you miss me? Did anything exciting happen during the week I was gone?

Before my vacation week, I was already in full blown holiday planning mode. Not surprisingly, I still am. It’s already September 12th, and I’m not really sure how that freaking happened.

Now, if you’re trying to be a full time writer, you’ve got to get used to being frugal. I spent some time recently figuring out what kind of money I’d have to make writing to quit my day job and guys, it’s not pretty. So I’m working on reigning in my lifestyle, so that I can more comfortably write full time.

The holidays have a way of messing of the best of budgeters. For someone like me, who has little self-control in the best of times, the holidays can easily spiral out of control. It’s happened more years than I’d like to admit. Especially when my monsters were itty bitty. I wanted so badly to have a ton of prettily wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree, the perfect store bought Halloween costume, and brand new dishware for Thanksgiving.

I’m thirty now, and my monsters are twelve. I don’t want to say that I’m smarter, just more realistic. So, here’s what I’ve done to lower the financial hit of the holidays.

Activities, not gifts.

In my house, we’re big movie and tv fans. I capitalize on this. During Halloween, my monsters are pumped for horror movies, a TreeHouse of Horror Marathon and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. We make warm apple cider in the crock pot (pour in apple cider, add cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. Let cook until warm. For adults only, add some spiced rum). Thanksgiving has its own Charlie Brown movie, and some other fun crafts.

  • We take a small tree branch, and hang it with the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner. Strings of popcorn and toast. The monsters get the jellybeans and pretzels. Even at twelve, the kids love this.
  • Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a whole family event, with everyone making their own signature dishes.
  • Everyone writes on a piece of paper what they’re thankful for. We take turns pulling them out of a mason jar and guessing who’s is who’s.

Then there’s Christmas! There is just no limit to the Christmas events that cost little to no money.

  • Baking cookies.
  • Decorating the house.
  • Putting up the tree.
  • Buying gifts for Toys for Tots (even on our brokest years, we’ve gone to Dollar Tree and gotten something to put in the box)
  • Opening crackers on Christmas eve.
  • All of the Christmas books to read together.
  • All of the Christmas movies to read together.

I am totally confidant that we could have no gifts, and everyone in my house would still be excited for Christmas.

Potluck holidays

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this for Thanksgiving. Everyone brings a dish, and there’s a ton of food without beggaring any one family. But, please, consider taking this further.

  • If you’ve got a lot of friends with little kids, or live somewhere trick or treating isn’t safe, have a bunch of people bring candy and host a little indoor trick or treat.
  • Have everyone in the family make (or buy) different kinds of cookies for a holiday party.
  • Don’t get touchy when your mother in law wants to make the stuffing. You don’t have to buy stuffing if she makes it, and it will make her happy.
  • If you celebrate Christmas, have everyone buy a bunch of little gifts In bulk, and swap with each other for stocking stuffers.

I’m sure you can think of a lot of things that can be ‘potlucked’ for the holidays. I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

Homemade gifts, décor and costumes

I am a Pinterest fanatic, and I honestly don’t believe there’s a thing I can’t make. I knit, crochet, sew, do origami and love mason jars like nothing else.

These are not things that you can’t learn! Check out a YouTube video and crochet a hat and bootie set for your friend with a newborn. Spray paint some mason jars and stick fall flowers in them for Thanksgiving centerpieces. Make your kids Halloween costumes. They’ll probably turn out better anyway, and the kids will have a blast helping. If you can’t do anything else, use some construction paper and make paper bats and snowflakes. Trust me, you’ll have way more fun this way.

Check The Cheap Sites

Wish.com, Ebay, Amazon, even Craigslist can all be great places to get good stuff cheap. I have gotten some awesome stuff online for the holidays. Especially as the monsters are getting older and want more expensive things. I can find Halloween makeup, costume accessories, and nifty decorations.

You can also use sites to get stuff in bulk! So, if you’re good at storing things, you can buy things that aren’t going to go bad this year, and have it for next year.

Don’t think I’ve left out cheap stores, by the way. Dollar Tree is great for decorations, little gifts, candy, and wrapping paper. I start there before I go anywhere else.

The power of holiday cards/ Not everyone needs a gift from you.

I don’t buy gifts for a lot of people. In fact, here’s a list of people I do buy for.

  • My kids
  • My pets (but that’s actually for the kids)
  • My husband
  • My mother and mother in law
  • My grandmother
  • My friends that have children, and I’m going to explain this one. People with kids get shit upon during the holidays. We do all this work for our kids to make the holiday for our kids, our in laws, our whole family. And I don’t know about you, but I went three years without a Christmas gift after my daughter was born. I didn’t want a lot, but hell a box of cheap candy would have been touching. So I make the effort to remind my new parent friends that they are still people deserving of love and gifts.

That’s not a lot of people. But I have a lot of friends, both in and out of my day job. And I’m a sentimental, giving person who likes to take opportunities like holidays to show people that I love them.

So I give out cards with little festive chocolates, and call it a day. It’s a small thing, but it’s enough to show that I care. And I’m always, by the way, touched by a holiday card. They make me feel loved.

Rebate sites

If you must buy a gift, and you can’t find it on one of the cheap sites, try to get it through a rebate site. I use Ebates, and I make back a tiny fraction of the money that I spend on stuff that way. Usually I just use this to order grocery items from Walmart, but the holidays are when it really pays off.

Plan ahead

And that’s why I’m talking about all of this in September. None of this works if you don’t plan ahead. Plan as early as you can, and get as much done ahead of time as you can. I already have my Halloween game plan, and the Monsters have already told me what they want so that I can get their costumes together. (One wants to do a cross gender cosplay of the Tenth doctor. I am really glad that I have two months to pull that together for a twelve year old. Where do I find a brown trench coat in her size?!)

I also take huge advantage of after holiday sales. I pick up Halloween items in November, stock up on evaporated milk and Thanksgiving decorations in December, and all of the Christmas stuff in January. I got a ton of Christmas lights last year, and I’m looking forward to unpacking them. If you’re the sort who’s good at keeping track of things, and if you’ve got the storage space, do this!

If you missed it, don’t forget to check out my post about keeping to your writing routine during the holidays.

And don’t forget to check us out on Wednesday, for the launch of Seeming!

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