The One Thing that Will Save You Money this Holiday Season

You don’t need any special talent to do it, it requires very little time, and without it, you can end up spending twice as much. What is it?

Planning ahead.

Here is what I told Sarah from Buttoned Up last holiday season in an article for Scripps News:

“As with saving money in general, planning ahead is the best way to reduce your holiday spending.

First, time affords you the luxury to really think about what someone needs or wants. Thoughtful gifts can get away with being less expensive because they are more satisfying to both the giver and the receiver.

Second, when we are rushed and stressed, we tend to throw money at the problem. If we take the time to research the person’s interests, we are less prone to grabbing high-priced items to fill the void.

Finally, homemade gifts, the least expensive of all, usually require time and effort. If you want to make a memory book or a collection of your child’s artwork, you’ll feel better if you’ve got it in hand ahead of time (and less likely to drop the idea when time gets tight).”

Things You Might Want to Get Started on Now

Last year in Low Impact and Low Cost Gift Ideas, I talked about making photo albums (82% of Americans would rather have a collection of memories than a store-bought gift) and creating books of a child’s art or writing.

We have made books of the poems my daughters wrote in school (they rewrote them and added pictures) using a scanner and Blurb.  Another service, Inkubook, will print up a glossy book of your kid’s artwork.

You could do a more low-tech version — sometimes just as easy — by simply photocopying your child’s best work and either having it bound or doing it yourself (try a hole-punch and ribbons, a three ring binder, or a report cover).

If your child is not the artsy type, simply memorializing her age by copying a sampling of her work — either preschool scribbles or homework sheets — would be a loved memory.

What about making a movie flipbook from your digital videos with a service like FlipClip?

Holiday cards:  if you write a little about what’s going on in your life and include some photos, it’s a gift in itself.  People love getting hand-written snail mail, but if you can’t deal with writing it down, try these digital holiday cards that look like paper, recommended by Real Simple magazine: Paperless Post ($10 for 150 cards) or Pingg (free).

Things You Might Want to Request from Others

I don’t know about you, but we are up to our eyeballs in toys, craft supplies, balls, knick-knacks, stuffed animals, trucks, books — you get the idea.

While new toys can seem enticing to both the giver and the receiver, they eventually collect dust and create more chaos in our overflowing households.  Really all children need to have fun is a playmate or an engaging hobby or sport.

Last year I wrote about some clutter-free gift ideas such as experience gifts, sponsoring classes or activities, or gift certificates for pampering. What about asking for a professional photography session in your home, a subscription to a cooking website like Cooks Illustrated, or a tour of your city by boat or horse and carriage?

Things You Could Have Fun Making at Home

Make a big event out of creating holiday-themed treats for others, and you’ve just doubled the pleasure:  you spend time with your kids doing something out-of-the-ordinary, plus you give to others.

Here are some ideas I’ve written about in the past:

Easy chocolate-covered toffee

Fun and festive bonbon cookies

Sparkly pine cones

Homemade lollipops (you can change the Valentine theme to holiday)

Things You Can Do to Feel in Control

Finally, Simple Mom has some great tips for another major aspect of your holiday gift-giving:  planning your budget.

She has great ideas including mapping out your expenses (you can start this year recording all of your expenditures as a basis for a budget next year), increasing your budget by getting a seasonal job (like gift-wrapping), and setting limits on gift-giving (will you give just one present per person?  limit each gift by dollar amount?  decide not to exchange with extended family?).

What can you start now that will make you breathe easier when December rolls around? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo credits:  gifts, letterpress card.

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6 comments

  • Harold Stier November 13, 2010, 3:26 pm

    Remember Mr.Stier? (Math). I am enjoying your e-mails. I knew you would do something SPECIAL.

    Reply
  • Ashley @ About One November 9, 2010, 2:03 pm

    It is amazing what a little planning can do! We are getting ready to move in the middle of December, so thinking about Christmas ahead of time isn’t just an option this year, it’s a necessity! I am going to have to check out your suggestions for homemade gifts- I definitely want to do more of those with my kids this year.
    Ashley @ About One´s last post ..Getting Started with AboutOne- Moving your Address Book

    Reply
  • Jennifer November 8, 2010, 10:31 pm

    I would really like to start doing more crafty things for the holidays and start some fun traditions since I feel like I have the money side of things pretty well sorted out. I’ve had a strict budget for the past couple of years, and it has been strangely liberating. I have a set dollar amount for each person in our family (it’s the same for all three of us). It’s rather modest, so the Christmas shopping goes very quickly–last year I did it all in one day. I actually enjoy the challenge of stretching my budget as far as I can.

    I think my most difficult task this year will be convincing my two year old son that he cannot have a BMX bike for Christmas…

    Reply

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