Over the past year Eric and I have gotten pretty good at living a more frugal lifestyle. We are currently spending less than a third of our annual income and the rest goes straight in to our investment and retirement accounts. The holidays are always an expensive time for everyone but there are ways to be creative and cut back.
Now, the Christmas season is really, really important to me and I absolutely don't want to sacrifice my quality holiday experience in order to save money. I do believe however, that if you are smart and plan ahead there are ways you can cut your spending without having to loose any of the joy the season brings. In fact, realizing how much money you saved will make you enjoy it even more. Here are some tricks we use to keep costs down.
I've broken it down in to two sections, decorations and gifts. I know there are other areas to splurge on during the holidays but these are my two biggest areas of spending.
This is a pretty easy one to save some money on. I love having the house gussied up for Christmas and feeling extra festive because of all my holiday accouterments. There are lots of ways to do this without spending much if anything.
-Use what you have.
Personally I use a ton of my leftover wedding supplies for holiday decorations. From the white Christmas lights we used for decorations to the vases that the flowers came in to the tablecloths, plates and glasses. Getting more use out of my wedding supplies makes me feel like I got more bang for my buck and lets me relive my happy wedding memories. Even if you don't have extra wedding gear laying around chances are you have some random supplies that can be repurposed for holiday decorating uses. Look around your house with a creative eye and see what you can come up with.
-Bring in some nature.
I am lucky enough to have a large yard with lots of evergreen plants that grow their naturally. Ever year I cut some things from the yard to make garlands and table arrangements. I have some lovely holly that grows in the front yard which is perfect for holiday decorating. Even if you don't have a big yard chances are you can find some pretty evergreens growing wild if you just take a stroll through your neighborhood.
-Think about getting a smaller tree.
We are doing this this year not really to save money but because it will be easier to keep Echo out of it. If you put a small tree up on a table it has the same effect as a big tree at a much lower cost (plus it's baby proof!).
My mom makes adorable Christmas ornaments out of old wool sweaters that she felts. Use last years Christmas cards to make ornaments or use This years cards to make a banner. Trader Joe's bags can be cut up to make a wreath or garland. Search Pinterest, there are tons of great ideas out there.
I feel you have to be careful about this one. Making gifts is great and special, especially if you have people in your life that appreciate home made goodies. While it seems like making gifts is a great way to save money you really have to watch your cost of materials. Sometimes sewing a cute potholder actually costs a lot more than buying one at Target. if you are smart with your materials however and especially if you already own a lot of the basics you need to make things this can be a really wonderful way to give amazing gifts that are one of a kind. Baked goods or cutting from your Christmas cactus that you have repotted in festive containers (assuming you have a Christmas cactus that grows like crazy like I do) are good low cost options.
-Credit Card Rewards
For all my Amazon shopping this year I was able to use my rewards points from my credit card. i had been saving them up for Christmas since this Summer and was able to get about $90 worth of merchandise for free.
If you need to buy a lot of something be sure to ask if you can get a discount for ordering a certain amount. My mom did this when buying the beeswax candles she used as favors for my baby shower. They told her they could give her a discount if she bought a certain amount, all she had to do was ask! It may not work but you have nothing to lose by asking.
Good for stocking stuffers and little kids. If your kid is anything like mine they usually prefer the cheap stuff to the beautiful hand made toy that I lovingly selected for them. Lots of stores such as Target and Michael's have good dollar bins.
Start early and strategically buy things when they go on sale. Just be careful that you don't go over board. Often when I start early I just keep finding things I want to buy throughout the year and I end up with way too much stuff! You have to be disciplined if you take this approach.