6 easy ways to save money over the holidays and reduce stress

I find it so easy to overspend for the holidays. At first it’s gift-shopping – the ads and the music and the general festiveness of it all really puts me in the mood to splurge on my family and friends. Every year it’s the same: I set a budget for spending on gifts, but I almost always go over it because of a few people that I’d forgotten when I made my list. Even worse, I always, always, always forget to factor in how much it costs to host or attend other people’s gatherings where I usually bring a potluck dish and a small gift of thanks. By the time January rolls around, I find myself wondering just where all the money on my credit card was spent!

Why does it matter how much we spend?! It’s no secret that the holidays can be very stressful, and financial stress can really take a toll on us. Our children notice when we are stressed out. I know that I’m so much more present with my kids and have way more patience when I’m not worrying about something. Besides, I’m pretty sure our children would prefer good times together as a family where mom and dad are relaxed, happy and really present. Quality time with family is the stuff of memories; not having the perfect stocking stuffers or the latest fad toys. You’ll see what I mean when you check out this heart-warming video that recently went viral.

I’m generally a money-savvy person, so this year I’ve promised myself I’ll avoid getting swept up in the spending hype. Here are my top 6 ways I’m going to reduce my spending this holiday season:

1. Have a budget!

Don’t forget to include entertaining, decorating and gifts. Do your best to stick with it and update your budget as you buy to help keep track of your spending (and don’t forget to include taxes). Be kind to yourself if you do go over budget – just do your best to stick with it for future shopping. Watch for sales and try shopping online with free shipping; some people find online shopping an easy way to stay on budget when buying gifts since there are usually less impulsive splurges.

2. Rethink gifts for your kids

Let’s not forget what’s really important. We can probably all agree that giving our kids a ton of toys is doing more harm than good. My kids are still young, and we limit them to one fairly inexpensive toy from “Santa.” (Off topic, but think about it: if Santa is part of your tradition, how is it fair that Santa gave your child an $800 tablet while her best friend in Kindergarten got a $30 building set? Budget aside, if you must get your kids big-ticket items, why not let them come from you?)

3. Buy for less people

Make a plan with extended family members to reduce (or even do away with) the gift-giving. Because really, how many ugly sweaters and old man slippers do you need? In our extended families, we’ve been drawing names so that each of us only has to buy for one other person. This year we’re considering starting a new tradition and doing something fun together. It’s fun to get creative. Babysitting coupons are probably my most favourite gift to receive! It’s also a good idea to prioritize who to buy for. Can some people be given a little plate of home-made baked goods or be taken off your list completely? (Tip: have fun making a big batch of cookies with your children, divvy up the treats and wrap them in festive give-away baggies. If someone surprises you with a present, you’ll have plenty of these gifts to reciprocate!)

4. Entertain for less

When hosting, consider a potluck. They not only make it cheaper for you to entertain, but also help reduce the amount of preparation you need to do. Lately I’ve switched it up and started hosting a brunch potluck. Eggs are a lot cheaper than turkey! Plus, people don’t typically expect to be served alcohol at a brunch. When going to other people’s homes, bring some baked goods as a thank you instead of wine or a gift.

5. Decorations

Can you make do with last years’ decorations? Instead of spending time and money shopping for decorations, look up easy ideas on the internet and have fun with the kids making decorations. Colourful construction paper goes a long way! Keep in mind that you don’t need to decorate your whole house. Instead, concentrate on the areas where your family spends most of its time.

6. Know when to stop!

Checked off every name on your list? Got all the food? Stop shopping! 😉

If you can afford it, add something to your budget to help families in need. Maybe it’s a donation to the local food drive, or a toy for the local toy drive. Be sure to involve your kids in however you decide to give back. If your finances are really tight this year, there are programs in our community to help provide gifts for your kids this holiday season. Contact your local Salvation Army or faith-based group to learn more.

Do you have any other tips to share to keep costs down this holiday season? Please share them with us:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
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