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Prepping for the holidays

Okay, so the kids are back in school and we’re all settled into our routines (Lucky you! I still have a few years for that.). But by now, you’ve been bombarded by Halloween haunting every store and yes, even Thanksgiving (yes, we Canadian’s like to celebrate it nice and early). And then there’s… Christmas! Yes, I know, I know. But whether you love it or hate it, for most of us the holidays are coming! So take some time now to plan for it and minimize the stress.

There’s a lot to plan for – family gifts, and parties, and huge meals that have you cooking for days. All of this requires considerable thought, energy, and more often than not, money!

I can’t help you with the others, but thankfully, there are ways around spending heaps of dough on the holidays. So here are some thrifty ideas to keep your holiday spending on the down-low:

List it!

Having a list will keep you organized, on budget and you’re less likely to forget something once it’s written down. I like to jot things down in Wunderlist on my phone, as I often forget to bring the little paper lists along. As they come to your head, jot them down:

  • Write down all the people you need to shop for.
  • Note any decorations you might like to add  (although we have enough, my wife likes to add a few new ones every year).
  • Don’t forget about food and drink, for those holiday guests and especially if you’re hosting a big dinner party (just make sure to have all the cooking/baking ingredients covered). If you’re planning to host a big dinner party, you might want to set up a separate list to include what guests will be attending, the menu, etc. My Frugal Home has a great collection of printable holiday planners, just to keep things on track. Holiday parties have a way of getting out of hand.

And be as specific as you can – instead of just listing ‘gift for granny’ – think about what you’re getting her.

Schedule it!

Once you have a list of all the items you need, jot down your to-dos in your calendar. And set a date to have all your gifts bought by. Keep the list in your pocket (or on your phone), so that’s it’s easily accessible if you come across a sale.

If it’s something you can get online, be sure to check on the following:

  • Most online retailer now feature price alerts, where they can email if the product goes below a certain price or even whenever it’s on sale,
  • Free shipping offers. If the shipping isn’t completely free, most retailers such as Amazon.ca offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount. So when it says you need to spend $39 to get free shipping, think about who else you can shop for, at that time. And before you know it, you’ve knocked a few people off your list in the comfort of your pj’s.
  • and don’t forget to keep an eye out for promo codes (check out RetailMeNot).

Set aside a few things to do every week up until then, so by the time the holidays roll along, you’re not scrambling to buy last-minute items or gifts at inflated prices. Get great deals now, before all the Christmas stuff is gone. And then when the holidays are upon us, you’ll be sitting back relaxed, with a mug of egg nog. Not stuck behind some sleep-deprived, panic-stricken, maniac in line at the mall.

Budget it!

Once you have a list of your items and when you need them by, you can start building a rough budget. Tally up all your items, then estimate what this will cost you. So you can set aside some funds, each month and each week, to tackle your to-buys and avoid the year-end surprise on your credit card bill.

Also, now is the time to look at your list and look at ways to make your shopping and gift-giving a little easier and lighten your expenses. Maybe you can suggest a simple ‘Kris Kringle’ amongst all the adults, and only buy gifts for the kids. Or even better, think of some homemade Christmas gifts or decorations you make yourself. Check out Pinterest for some holiday inspiration.

Celebrate it!

Most importantly, enjoy them! I may have used the word “need” a few times during this post. But of course, the only thing you need this holiday season is the company of your loved ones. All the rest is gravy.

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