Tag Archives: Christmas gifts

Seven Things to Do Now to Save for the Holidays Next Year

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend approximately $700 on Christmas gifts and goodies this year. For some people, maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot of money. But these days, I don’t have that kind of extra money to spend in one month. And I prefer not adding to my debt just to add to someone else’s material possessions.

My parents had to buy for six children plus each other. But I don’t remember so many “other people” expecting something simply because they happen to be in your life. I remember my mom putting something in a card for the mailman, and my dad would always get a bottle of whiskey or some other liquor for the guys who picked up trash. But even with all that, I can’t imagine they spent anywhere near $700! Of course those were different times. It seems now, we’re expected to give something to our kids’ teachers, coaches, babysitters, and our own co-workers, neighbors, hair stylist or barber; not to mention friends, and family members.

I’m single. I don’t have to buy for kids, and all but one of my 19 nieces and nephews are young adults; some starting families of their own. We live in six different states so I don’t feel the pressure to try to buy something for everyone. But when you add buying food for the parties, gas for traveling; gifts, wrappings, and decorations, the spending can still creep up on you, especially if you have a growing list of friends, business associates, coworkers, and church community groups.

So how do you make and keep a budget and still find ways to have fun and enjoy being with friends and family over the holidays? Planning!

 “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” 

So here are seven things you can do to save for the holidays now, and plan for the holidays next year!

1.  Join a Rewards Program. Better Yet, Join Several of Them!

I know some people don’t like reward programs. I’ve never really understood why. Maybe they think the business is tracking them. Newsflash. If you’re online. If you have an email, or are on social media. If you have a cell phone. You are being tracked. Joining reward programs now gives you coupons later. Not only do many businesses give free treats, discounts, savings on gas, or money to spend for things like your anniversary date and birthdays, but many have special higher discounts and giveaways during Christmastime. silver ornament

I got this ornament from World Market this year, just for being a rewards member. No purchase necessary! 

2.  Buy Hostess, Teacher, and Coaches Gifts Throughout the Year.

Nothing says you have to wait until Black Friday to start shopping for Christmas. When you see sales or drastic discounts on items that would make a good gift, go ahead and buy it — in March; in July; in whatever month you discover it. The person receiving the first isn’t going to ask if you got it at the Labor Day sale! Spend time during the year also looking for store closing sales. With the right timing, you can find items for as much as 75-90 percent off!

3.  Host an Ornament and Decorations Exchange Party.

This one can be fun. You know how every few years you decide your tree looks boring or you want to change up the way you’ve been decorating the house over the years? Well, have some friends over with the directive for them to go through their Christmas boxes and collect the ornaments, wreaths, decorations — anything they no longer use year-to-year. Everyone brings the items they’re interested in getting rid of, and spreads them out across the table. Then everyone goes around and picks through things that the other person no longer wants. At the end of the night, not only have you managed to squeeze in another girls’ night, but all of you go home with new ornaments, different decorations, and fresh ideas to deck your halls!

bright-christmas-balls-christmas-decoration

4.  Have a Pot-Luck Dinner Party.

Instead of taking on the burden of planning and paying for a dinner party yourself, make it a potluck. Pick a theme, have everyone bring a dish that works with the theme, and you provide the Christmas atmosphere of music, lights, and smells. Don’t worry about buying a candle; just boil some cinnamon and cloves on the stove! By sharing the parts of the meal, no one person is footing the entire bill. And that also means less time in the kitchen cooking and baking.

5.  Save Christmas Gift Bags to Use Again.

Okay, I know most of you are probably already doing this, but if you’re not, you need to start! There’s no shame to reusing gift bags. Just remember to remove the name card from it. I actually save colorful tissue papers as well. Again, when you’re packaging it up for someone, they aren’t going to know or even care when or if you bought the bag that their gift is in. I think I’ve even returned the same bag to someone the following year. It was perfect for their gift. So why not? 

6.  Buy Christmas Cards, Wrappings, and Ribbons at the End of the Season.

The best deals on holiday items is right before the holidays (when they’re trying to get rid of last year’s inventory), and right after the holidays, (when they don’t want to store any remains of this year’s inventory). Make room in your attic, closet, or garage, and pick up items that are drastically marked down. That will be one less thing to worry about the following year, and you would have saved yourself a lot of money.

Christmas snow flake packages

7.  Make a List. Check it Twice!

Create a list and put people’s names in the order of priority. Stick with your list of who you’re buying a gift for, and in what price range you’re spending. That way you don’t end up leaving anyone out, but also, controlled discipline of not adding more people to your gift list later. Budget even what you’re willing to spend on food items for those parties, and which events (movies, theater, light shows) you’re spending money on. Then try to find things to do with your friends and family that are free.

Cutting back and spending less, doesn’t have to mean not having a great time over the holidays. I think it forces creativity and thoughtfulness. But remember that the first step to not over spending is planning. The next step is sticking to your plan. Look for other ways to save money and still have a wonderful Christmastime!

 

Free Shopping Days of Christmas

Don’t let the word “shopping” fool you! I’m not advocating going out and spending a lot of money this Christmas season. Quite the opposite. Because I’ve never quite understood why people will run up their credit cards to buy lots of things for many people who either don’t need what you’re buying for them, or would have loved a lesser priced gift from you. And for those with higher expectations, including family members, you have to ask yourself what do they value more — the monetary amount of a gift you can barely afford, or spending time together with an understanding that the holiday season isn’t a license to go further into debt, as so many Americans do!

I recently shared on the Catching Raindrops Facebook page that twice in the last three weeks Thorntons Gas has dropped a six cents off fuel rewards on my card. Both times it happened the day I needed to gas up! Just the other day, another one appeared. I may not need to gas up yet, but topping off my half tank before it expires tomorrow will still be beneficial! Last month I got a free cup of coffee from there as well. Then there was two weeks ago when I got a coupon from Kirkland’s for ten dollars! What great timing, because I need a new pair of gloves. I would never have thought to go there for clothing items, but just this morning, an email of sale items appeared? Not only were gloves listed on sale for FIVE DOLLARS, but so was a pair of women’s slippers, which I also need. So I’ll be getting two more things I need — for FREE! That’s MY kind of shopping.

Earlier this month I hit up Bath & Body Works and their $4.95 sale on aromatherapy products (these items are regularly $12.00-$15.00; and more), and was glad to be able to use my buy one get one free coupon which I’d been holding on to for the right moment. So YES, I got TWO aromatherapy products (i.e. Christmas gifts) that would have cost me over $25.00, instead for just $4.95!

And at Cost Plus World Market, after some “smart shopping” purchasing several bags of coffee for friends during their buy one get one free sale, I ended up earning another free BAG of coffee on my account for myself! But that wasn’t the end of my World Market venture. While there, I noticed an in-store treasure hunt, in search of the Golden Llama. I was too late for that day, but four days later, I decided to show up when the store opened. Yeah, there were about six other women with the same idea, but as the door opened, with the clue of the Llama being seen near something green, I decided to try my luck. While most of the ladies started near the front of the store, I headed straight to the back, looking at everything green. I found one! What started off as a silly game and marketing ploy, of course, won me TWENTY DOLLARS in shopping money! Okay, I admit I wish it had been one of the $50 or $100 rewards, but $20 was better than nothing! And apparently FREE money counts because later that day I had earned a TEN DOLLAR coupon to use later!


So why am I sharing all of this. Well, I’ve talked often about the benefits of joining Rewards programs before. Times like these are when I like sharing specific benefits to these programs. They’re free to join and you get rewarded for doing what you already do — shopping, getting gas, etc. I don’t join programs for places I don’t already visit. But getting rewarded — in other words, saving money — for engaging places I go to anyway makes perfect financial sense! It’s the very essence of catching raindrops in water buckets!