If you’re anything like me, the fast approaching holidays are a cause for both celebration and financial despair.
Look, as much as I love the general spirit of Christmas, I find it incredibly difficult to tame my spending habits from year to year– I’ve spent quite a few holidays going absolutely nuts with present shopping, home decorations, and big heavy dinners only to discover come January that I’m absolutely broke.
I’ve gotten better about my spending the last few years– which might have something to do with growing up, maturing, and the crazy kind of frugality found only among the stars of extreme couponing and University students– and rather than keep my secrets of financial success to myself I figured I’d share them with the masses.
Make a List– & Check it Twice
I know it may seem pretty obvious, but having a list of who you’re shopping for is one of the few things that really helps that often gets easily over looked. Sure, you’re buying for your family, but what about your friends? Your boss? Co-workers? Neighbors?
Not only does a list help keep you focused, it also helps prevents the f*cking heart wrenching and dreaded moments of realizing you’ve overbought for someone, or forgotten someone else.
Be Real About Your Budget
Now that you have your list, it’s time for a real and very frank examination of your bank account.
If you only have $200 dollars to spend this year, you’re going to have to be honest with yourself– be prepared to face the reality that not everyone on your list will be getting a $75 dollar gift. Sit down and be the bitch you have to be– decide who you are going to spend your more serious cash on, who you’re going to cut back on, and– if necessary– who you simply can’t afford to buy something for.
Establish a Limit
And alternatively– be honest. If you can’t afford to buy someone a present, or maybe have to lower the limit of what you’re willing to spend, LET THE OTHER PERSON KNOW. Nothing is worse that opening up a new sterling silver watch and realizing you forgot to tell the other person you could only drop $25 on them.
It may be an awkward talk to have, but setting a spending limit makes everything easier. My parents generally insist I don’t spend more than $40 on them, while my friends and I have had some pretty killer Christmases on $20 or less.
The most important thing is to be honest about what you can spend– any person worth buying a gift for will be understanding, and will probably appreciate the heads up not to drop a ton of cash on you in return.
Ask What’s in the Box
You don’t need to know specifics, but sometimes knowing the type of present someone is getting you makes it way easier to shop for them. Are they getting you one big thing? One small one medium? A bunch of small?
One year I dropped all my cash on a really nice sweater for my brother, and he ended up getting me a bunch of low budget gifts that were really thoughtful– despite the fact that were spent the same amount of cash, I still felt awkward sitting there unwrapping for a good ten minutes. I know it sounds silly, but knowing how another person is planning on distributing their cash on you makes it easier for you to reciprocate with the appropriate gift back.
Deals on Deals
I know we all dread the mall, but the fact of the matter if that larger scale shopping tends to have the better deals. And if you’re looking for something really specific for someone, they can be really handy.
Starting Black Friday onward, almost every store (in person and online) will have some kind of deal in an attempt to clear out their winter merchandise. Don’t be afraid to shop around or scroll online to find the best possible deal on anything specific you’re looking for.
If you don’t have the perfect gift in mind, it can also be to your advantage to go in person and scope out a retailer before you buy– big box stores, boutiques, and almost any shop will have their Holiday merchandise out by early November. Plus, stores are full of employees who can tell you when Holiday sales are going to start and what they’re going to discount before it happens, which might make it easier to pinpoint a direction for your present buying. Do your research!
A lot of my best Christmases have been the ones that were less than traditional present wise. My boyfriend and I once halved the money we were going to spend on each other, pooled it, and spent a whole night eating, drinking, and dancing at the best clubs in our city.
Some years my friends and I skip the presents altogether and spend time together– sometimes we go out for a low-key dinner, sometimes we get the whole gang together for cookie baking and movies. One year we dubbed the season “Not Christmas” and deliberately bought each other trinkets and other crap from the dollar store with the goal to be the giver of the worst present– nothing beats the look on someone’s face when they unwrap a defaced Barbie doll, an old butternut squash, or an expired calendar.
One thing about Christmas that I’m not crazy about is the fact that it can so quickly become all about the money– and if you don’t have a ton of cash, this can make you feel like you aren’t doing the holidays right. However, if you take the time to plan and maybe get a little creative, you can still have a ton of fun and beat the bank in the process.
What do you think Broke Babes? Love it? Hate it? Want to hear more about Not Christmas?
Hit like, leave me a comment, and spend smart this holiday season.