For both my sister and I, it's baby's first Christmas. We've gone from a family of adults, having a casual drink and chatting loudly, back to toys, lights, and all the joys that come from a young family. With all that excitement, it is no surprise that I already have a list a mile long of things I'd like to buy my son; cute seasonal clothes, photos for grandparents, and of course, gifts aplenty for under the tree. As with most new moms, however, I'm feeling the pinch of my reduced income. I have to do my best to match my dreams to my very real budget. Being a good saver, I would like to share a few strategies to make planning for your holiday spending a little easier. I hope you benefit as much as I have with these techniques.
If you have over 6 months...
While it won't be applicable for this coming season, starting to save as early as possible is always the ideal method. Stretching it out over a longer period means saving less each time you put money away with the same (or an improved) result. This is true of everything from short term goals like a big purchases like furniture or vacations, and longer term planning such as retirement and school savings for your children. If you're already finding funds tight, this is the ideal time to work a little overtime, or take on some side work if you can. Dog walking, house cleaning, direct sales - whatever you feel comfortable with. Can you have a garage sale? Send some out grown clothes to the consignment store? The money needs to come from somewhere and you can't get blood from a stone.
- Estimate a reasonable budget for your list. That means that maybe you don't have $250 for your parents this year. And maybe thinking you can do everything handmade is a little ambitious.
- Take your total budget and save an extra 10%. There might be price changes, taxes or shipping costs that will require a contingency down the road.
- Shop too early! It might seem like a great deal now, but people's tastes change, they buy things for themselves, and return policies expire! I'm not advocating a December 24th panic-fest, but maybe July is a little pre-mature to predict junior's size and grandpa's tool shop needs.
- Make a piggy bank for those downtown parking and latte costs. You have no idea how much can accumulate in small change. Throw everything smaller than a loonie in a tin and watch the magic happen. You don't even need to roll it anymore - most banks have coin machines that do the work for you.
- Separate your funds in to pre-allocated envelopes. It may seem like a pain to shop with cash, but it is a guarenteed way to see where your money is going and when it's gone. Replace funds with the receipts for your purchases so you know where they are if you need them.
- Wrap yet! Things are still in flux and you might find out that your sister bought the same thing for the little one that you did, or that an item for hubby has been recalled. It's annoying, but it happens, and you might as well expect it. (Good thing you know where the receipt is!)
Do you have a budgeting tip to share or a great money saving strategy? We'd love to hear about it! Follow us on Facebook and tell us all your best holiday survival stories!