One minute it’s hot girl summer, the next minute it’s the holidays! Let’s avoid broke girl winter with 5 tips to save money during the holidays.
1. Set Your Holiday Budget & Sinking Fund
It’s time to take a realistic look at your cash flow: your money in, your money out.
You’re going to jot down all your income and expenses over the next two months. List your basic living expenses. This includes:
- Basic groceries
- Monthly necessary payments
Subtract your total necessary monthly expenses from your total expected monthly income. This is the number you have to work with for your holiday budget, if you wanted to stay within what you could reasonably, comfortably afford (which you should!). Of course, this number may not reflect things like eating out, date nights, or entertainment-based subscription services. It’ll be up to you to decide what you cut back on and what you continue to prioritize.
When you have this number, it’s up to you to decide how exactly you want to set and stick to your budget; you have plenty of options when it comes to method!
One practice we like is establishing sinking funds. Sinking funds are mini savings accounts with a specific purpose that you contribute to on a set schedule. They make it easier to spend without the guilt! Hence, the name, because the more you add the more they “sink” towards your goal amount.
Let’s say over the next two months, you have an extra $200 you can spend on any holiday things, including gatherings and gifts, for a total of $400. You’re paid bi-weekly, so you have 3 paychecks ahead of the holidays to establish your sinking fund (4 if you want to use your credit card, but use caution!). $400 for your holiday budget divided by 3 paychecks is about $134 that you will save per paycheck ahead of your holiday shopping.
To find your sinking fund number, take your total holiday budget, divided by the number of paychecks you have ahead of your target shopping deadline.
For future holiday seasons, start this process early and your sinking fund contribution will be smaller (ours was $50/paycheck for 6 months). This means it will be much easier to save money during the holidays!
2. Make A Shopping List
Now it’s time for some intentionality. You’re going to list out your holiday commitments. This includes:
We’re leaving unplanned, spontaneous shopping behind this holiday season! (Note: there is a way to plan for spontaneous shopping! It’s called sinking funds…)
Once you have your list of commitments, spend about an hour or so going through your list and jotting down ideas of gifts, for examples.
Some questions to ask yourself as you ponder gift ideas:
- Is there something I know they’ll like?
- What is something they have been missing in their day-to-day?
- What is something that can nurture a part of them they’re just exploring?
- Is there an [affordable] experience I know they’ll love?
The more thought you put int your gifts, the more you’ll ensure you don’t buy something that’s just flashy and that your loved one will enjoy.
Keep this list handy!
3. Shop Ahead
Thanks to the list you’ve made, you’ll already know what things you’re on the lookout for. Not only that, but with the supply chain shortage that’s affecting so many parts of our lives, you’re going to need to shop early to make sure your gift is actually in stock!
Having your list ahead of time can also ensure you can purchase some of your items during sales.
Upcoming sales for this last part of the year include:
- Black Friday, Thanksgiving – weekend after
- Cyber Monday – Monday after Thanksgiving
- Free shipping day – December 14
These first two sales tend to be good for high-ticket items. For smaller-ticket items, you’ll have to research store-by-store and just keep an eye out for good deals!
4. Plan Alternative Gatherings
If on your list of holiday commitments you had a couple gatherings, an easy way to offset some of these costs is through taking the burden off holding all host responsibilities.
If you are responsible for planning a dinner this year, think about making it into a potluck. You can make it themed and encourage your guests to get creative with their dish. To plan a potluck you’ll need:
- Full list of guests
- Assign people to appetizers, sides, main entrees, dessert, drinks, DRANKS, utensils (this last one is up to you! You could always be the one to provide this if you are hosting)
Now, instead of having to pay for any decor, set-up, and food, you’ll share the cost with your guests and can make it an even more enjoyable experience for everyone.
If you’re doing a family gathering on the day of your actual holiday, you may feel obliged to gift something to each member of your family. And we know that for POC families, this can be A LOT. Something one member on our team initiated with her family was a gift exchange. To run a gift exchange, you’ll need:
- One coordinator
- A list of all participants
- A list for each participant to fill out that can include things like size, favorite color, desired items, interest, etc.
- Budget per gift
Now, instead of feeling guilty for maybe not being able to buy a gift for each family member, you can have fun getting a thoughtful gift for whoever you drew! Your family will have fun guessing who got who and letting the anticipation build. This is not common for Latinx families, but younger generations are introducing it and we are seeing great results!
5. Make Money On What You’re Spending
Now, this one won’t be big, but it can save you a couple dollars here and there.
We’re talking about those apps and websites that can automatically scan for sales, coupons, or cash-back rewards. Keep in mind, the goal is not to spend more to get the reward. The goal is to get just a bit back on what you’re already planning on spending. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Ibotta– this is an app where you can receive offers or cashback specials
- Honey – a browser plugin that scans for coupons as you’re checking out
- Rakuten – a browser plugin and app that automatically notifies you if there is a cashback option. As you enter the website, the extension will notify you if so, and you simply access the site through Rakuten. Cash back is loaded onto your account and you choose how you want to get the cash
- Your credit card – now, if you feel comfortable using your credit card (we like using it as a debit card, aka pay as you spend), make sure to check your card’s “Rewards” section to activate any deals. Banks like Bank of America, Discover, Capital One, and Chase have a rotating category of merchants or categories that they give you special cashback on when you use their card.
The Bottom Line
The holidays are meant to be in community with your loved ones. They are a period of time to slow down, reflect on the past year, and get excited about the one that’s fast approaching. To minimize stress and maximize your enjoyment, take some time to plan out your finances to save money during the holidays. Set yourself up for success with our five tips on how to save money during the holidays.
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