Four Easy Ways to Prepare for the Christmas Season

Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year for most families. It’s when families reunite to catch up, exchange gifts and celebrate the season together. While just about everyone looks forward to the Christmas season, it can bring some additional concerns about how holiday shopping and travel expenses will impact the family’s finances.

To help make sure that you can give all of your attention to your family this Christmas, and not worry as much about your credit card statement, consider the following steps to help you afford presents for everyone from your spouse to your uncle Moe, without breaking the bank.

Step 1 – Research and Shop Early

To get the most out of your hard-earned dollars, you need to invest some time in research to determine what you’re getting, and where you want to get it. People joke that nowadays we’re putting up the tree before we’ve even carved our Halloween pumpkins, but when it comes to gift buying, this is the smart way to go.

There’s no shame in asking family members to give you their gift requests months in advance. That way, you’ll have ample time to shop for the best place to buy, and take advantage of any sales that crop up in the meantime. There are many instances where buying early can save you money, such as shopping for a new winter jacket during the summer clearance sales. Additionally, if you know you’re going to need more credit to afford some purchases, it will give you plenty of time to apply for a new card or improve your credit score if you need to.

Step 2 – Learn to Coupon

Since the late 1800’s, couponing has provided thousands of dollars in saving for families each year. The savings are free for you to use, costing only a little bit of your time to get what you need. As reported by The Balance, in 2017, $4.3 billion worth of coupons were sent to shoppers, and resulted in average savings of about $2,080 per family in a year. With the right investment of time, and willingness to shop around, couponing can really save you money.

To get started, you just need scissors, a computer, a printer, and a place to keep your coupons so you don’t lose them. While there’s no set standard, most women say that, to be really make a difference, you need to do at least two hours of coupon browsing and clipping a week. Whether you put in all the time at once or spread it throughout the week, is up to you. Mondays are typically the best time to coupon, since most retailers send out their coupons early in the week, but there can also be great coupons pop up on Thursdays or Fridays for weekends. How and when you coupon will depend on your own schedule, how much you’d like to save, and what stores you shop at.

The two best places to find coupons are in the local papers and magazines, and online. If it won’t cost more than you’re saving, subscribe to your local paper, and join the online mailing lists of your preferred stores. That way, you’re guaranteed to get some great deals sent straight to your mailbox or inbox as they come up.

Step 3 – Get Your Funds

Now that you’ve researched what you need and where you’ll get it, and you’re keeping an eye out for coupons and sales to save you money, you’ll want to start getting the funds you’ll need. There are a host of options for you to get extra money, that don’t require a lot of time and effort, and the following are some ideas to help you get started:

Sell Old Items

Aside from helping you get Christmas cash, selling old items will also free up space in your home, and help you avoid clutter. There’s serious money to be made from old items, even if they’re not antiques. According to InfoJournal, eBay sales of old items could generate profits of up to 400% their original purchase price, and common items like books, name-brand clothes and exercise equipment will often fly off of shelves. So, you’re not only making money for yourself, you may be helping someone else find a great holiday gift.

Use Your Hobbies

Aside from used items, crafts that you make yourself can be a great source for extra income, while allowing you to enjoy your hobby and improve your skills. According to The Craft Booth, the top selling handmade crafts of 2018 include letter pendants and monogram jewelry, knit cup cozies, handmade baby clothes, bath bombs, and rustic wooden signs.

In this same train of thought, if you’re an artist, consider taking on some commissions or selling prints of your work, or offer music lessons if you play an instrument. Using your hobbies to make money will not only help you save for the Christmas season, it’s a great option to fund a vacation as well.

Start a Christmas Savings Account

As we mentioned before, there’s nothing wrong with asking for gift requests early, and if you opt to start a Christmas savings fund, it’s essential. Aside from your gifts, you’ll also need to factor in any travel costs, so the sooner you can start saving, the better. Don’t just save exactly how much you need – add in about 10% extra to your total to account for price changes and unplanned expenses.

There’s no need to start an entirely separate savings account; you can set up automatic

payments into an account that you’ve already established. That way, you’ll know that you’re making your savings benchmarks, and you avoid spending credit you may not have to spend.

Take Out a Personal Loan

You probably don’t think of a loan as a go-to option for buying holiday gifts, but in fact, a personal loan can offer you some great options that you won’t get by just using cash or credit. First, a loan will give you the option to pay your expenses back over time, rather than all at once. Spending $1,000 for two plane tickets to the east coast to visit relatives can be tough as a lump some, but with a loan, you can break that down into $22 a month over three years, which is much more manageable.

Additionally, taking out a loan presents you with the opportunity to consolidate any debts you may have (including the ones you’ve racked up on your credit cards to buy for Christmas). By consolidating your debt with a single lender, you don’t have to worry about juggling multiple different balances across multiple agencies. This will make it much easier to manage, make your minimum payments on time and to reduce debt and improve your credit score.

Focus on the Family

Though there’s no doubt that Christmas can bring its own unique brand of stress, be it from travelling long distances or worrying about if grandpa is going to go too hard on the eggnog, Christmas is a time to celebrate the ones who matter most to you, and to share your joy with them. By following these three steps, you’ll find that your Christmas expenses don’t have to be the reason you’re not celebrating the season, and you can focus your attention on all the joy in your world.