It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Whatever you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others, this season is all about sharing the moment with loved-ones and bonding with your family and friends. It is also the time for gift-giving, parties, and merry-making – all of which can cause a strain on our finances if we’re not careful.
If you don’t want to make a dent on your settlement funds, try these tips to save money during the holiday season:
Make a budget and track your spending
Budgeting can be tedious but it’s the most effective way to ensure that you will spend within your means. First, make a list of all your expected expenses. This could include gifts (list down each person and if possible, how much you intend to spend for each one), food, activities (e.g. trips), clothes, amount of money to send home, etc. Make a little wiggle room for emergency expenses like last minute purchases and the like. From this list, you can already imagine how much you will need to allot. Review the list and cut-back on certain areas where you can. For instance, instead of taking a trip abroad, maybe explore some great sites in Manitoba. Instead of attending five parties, maybe skip one or two this year. But make sure that your budget is realistic and doable but not so tight that you fail to enjoy the holidays.
Use smart ways of spreading cheer
There are many ways by which you can still spread the love and cheer that will not cost you an arm and a leg:
- Secret Santa/Kris Kringle/Monito-Monita – If you have a big family or circle of friends, initiate this gift-giving scheme. Instead of buying each one person a gift, you just need to buy one item for one person. To do this, write each person’s name on a sheet of paper, fold, and place in a box. Each member of the group pulls out a name and keeps it a secret. That’s the person you will buy a gift for. This activity adds more excitement to the gift-giving tradition and makes it more likely that each person will receive quality gifts.
- Party at your home? Make it a potluck. You can cook one or two main dishes then assign other people or families what to bring. Also, appoint the younger ones to take charge of activities (like games and prizes) so that they’ll feel involved. That’s one less thing you would need to worry about.
- The best things in life are free– Indulge in quality activities with your family. Choose practical (read: cheap or free) bonding moments like enjoying hot chocolate while watching a movie at home, baking together, creating holiday crafts, sledding or tobogganing at the park, or listening to holiday concerts at the mall.
- New charitable traditions – Create meaningful traditions that emphasize giving rather than receiving. Bake cookies with your kids to give away to neighbours, volunteer with them at a soup kitchen to serve meals, or at a shelter to prepare care packages. Ask them to check their closets for coats they don’t use anymore and donate to a coat drive. Join your own ethnocultural organization and help out a cause that will benefit the less fortunate in your home country. These are new holiday traditions that your children will cherish and hopefully continue until they are adults.
Don’t use credit
As much as possible use cash. Some experts advise withdrawing cash (as you have budgeted) and use them to pay for purchases. This will make the act of spending tangible and make you more aware of just how much you are spending. When the bills run out and you have an empty envelope, that’s the signal that you should stop shopping.
Do you bake, knit or do arts and crafts? Consider giving homemade gifts this year. Not only does this make your gifts more personal and heartfelt, it can be cheaper too.
Maintain your home country’s holiday traditions
Are there simple traditions you can do in Manitoba to remind you of home? These can be simple things like making a holiday lantern, crafting an advent wreath, going to mass, or cooking traditional food. These are inexpensive and meaningful activities that will give joy to the family and teach your kids to stay in touch and love their heritage.
Do post-holiday shopping
If your family or friends do not mind getting their gifts after the holidays, try post-holiday shopping. You will notice that prices of goods are slashed considerably during or after the first week of January. Not only will you save more money, but you will also be able to shop in relative peace without the crowds and traffic.
Don’t make the holidays about things
Because of the power of TV or magazine ads and various media, the holidays have become commercialized. Some families feel that their kids should have a truckload of toys from Santa or they should have tons of gifts under the tree. Resist the urge to splurge on material things. Make it more about the experience.
Think ahead to next year
Plan to save, budget and purchase early for next year so that you don’t spend more during the holiday rush. Start a separate holiday account where you can put in a bit of money every month (depending on the holiday budget you set) starting in January. Take advantage of off-season sales so that you don’t have to worry when the holidays grow near.
Enjoy the holidays!
Sources: 9 best ways to save money during the holiday season, Jacqueline Curtis, Money Crashers; 11 ways to save during the holiday season, The Everygirl.com. All accessed December 4, 2017.
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