Ah, Christmas — the most expensive time of the year. It's a time of love and joy and giving. And racking up huge credit card debt. This Christmas, in addition to the money-saving deals from The Bargainist, use the ideas below to ensure that you're doing everything you can to save money.
1. Make a list, and narrow it down. Who do you have to buy presents for? Make a list, because without it you will have a hard time creating a budget (see next item). Only put the essential people on it. Now see if you can narrow it down a bit. The surest way to have an expensive Christmas is to have a list that's too long.
2. Set a budget, and stick to it. How much can you afford to spend on Christmas this year, realistically? Don't put your Christmas shopping on your credit card if possible — just spend what you can find within your regular budget or in savings (though it's not a good idea to deplete your savings just for gifts). Once you have a total amount, decide how you'll split it among the people on your list. If the budget isn't big enough for the list, see some of the ideas below. The key, of course, is not just setting the budget, but remembering your limits (take your list with you as you shop) and doing your best not to go over the limit you set for each person on your list.
3. Do an exchange. This can drastically reduce costs, especially if you have a large family or group of friends or coworkers. Instead of buying something for everyone, you just have to buy one gift. Of course, that means you only get one gift too. But seriously, when was the last time you got something good?
4. Make your own gifts. I like to bake stuff, but you could make anything — picture frames, knitted scarves, a digital photo slideshow, a bookshelf, anything you can learn to make.
5. Buy used if you can. This may seem tacky to some, but really, you can get some amazing used stuff that in some cases are as good as or better than new items. Focus on vintage stuff, like out-of-print books or an antique knick knack. In any case, it's worth a look.
6. Just buy for kids. Christmas gifts are really the most fun for kids. While adults love getting gifts, of course, it's not as important to them. Instead, just buy gifts for the kids on your list. The adults will get over it, or better yet, be happy they don't have to find room for the stuff they probably never wanted in the first place.
7. Volunteer. Volunteering your time to help a charity costs you nothing but time, but it is completely satisfying. It also helps remind you what Christmas is really about — the spirit of giving, not the spirit of buying. With this reminder, you can give people the kind of gifts that really matter: love and kindness, not consumer goods.
8. Wrap with magazines or newspapers. Save money on expensive Christmas gift wrapping, and use old magazines or newspapers to wrap your presents. It's free (you already have the magazines), it's recycling, and it looks cool.
9. Give home-made coupons. This is one of my favorite gifts, because it costs nothing but it shows you care. You can give people coupons promising that you'll wash their car, babysit, give them a massage, clean their rain gutters, or whatever you can do that they would like.
10. Freebies. It doesn't get any cheaper than free. Be sure to check The Bargainist for totally free items and free after rebate items. If you have a lot of people in your life to buy for, you may be able to stock up on a bunch of the same item without spending a dime.
* Hot deals expire quickly. This deal may no longer be valid.
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