The Holidays on a Budget

By Maniyah Goodwine

That time of the year has come – the holidays have rolled in with the potential to wipe out your wallet if your are not prepared. Whether it be Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, or another holiday celebration, gift giving is usually involved. Exchanging gifts does not mean spending a majority of your money as long as you make wise choices in what, and how, you buy.

Make A Plan First

The first thing you should do is carve out a budget on how much you are able to spend in total. This will set the tone for your holiday shopping. Next, decide who will receive gifts. Remember, not every single friend or distant family member needs a gift.

Completely Analyze Your Budget

While gifts may be the main expense, there are other expenses that get overlooked during the holiday season. People often forget to factor in things like the January rent, decorations, and extra food.

Get a Head Start

Shopping for the holidays is not exclusive to just shopping around the holidays. You can catch sales year round and wait to formally exchange the gifts. You can even get started right after Christmas with “day after Christmas sales” or New Year’s sales. Some stores even have semi-annual sales or end of the season sales throughout the year as they bring in new merchandise. Shopping the clearance racks is always a great addition. Starting early reaps many benefits, the biggest one being saved money. The closer to the holiday you choose to shop during the holiday season, the more likely you are to buy things on impulse.

DIY Gifts

Yes, you can make gifts! Sometimes these may be appreciated more than something with a monetary value. This is the time to put your craftiness to work. If you are inclined, you can make things that the people you love are in need of. For example, if you are good with woodworking you can assemble simple things like shelves and photos. If you knit or crochet you can make blankets and pillowcases. If you aren’t artistic you can do something as simple as printing photos off of your Instagram or Facebook and framing them. Things like this are usually at little to no cost but still make great gifts.

Gift Exchange – Buy One Gift

Hosting a Secret Santa style gift exchange is another way to negate the price of gift giving among friends (and even family!). Put all the names of the participants in a bag and have each person pick a name. Whatever name they choose is the person they are responsible for giving a gift to. Typically, in a gift exchange, the participants decide on a maximum budget for the gift.

Take A Year Off

While it may seem weird after all the years of habitual gift giving, deciding not to exchange gifts is always an option. If you are having financial difficulty and find that you do not have the resources to pull off an extravagant holiday, explain the situation to your loved ones and put it off until times are better.

Give It Back, Pay it Forward

Another alternative to the exchanging of gifts is donating to charity. This enables you to make a change by donating to a cause you support. Some ways you can donate include:

  • Donating food to your local food bank
  • Volunteering at a shelter
  • Sponsoring a family in need of help for the holidays (like Toys for Tots)

The holiday season is one that has the potential to break the bank, but with proper planning, it doesn’t have to. Being wise and creating a plan will help you survive the holiday with ease!