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youngandthrifty.ca shares 5 tips on how to save money during this expensive time of year by planning ahead, cutting costs on cards, and sticking to your budget.

Although the notion of the holidays evokes thoughts of family, warmth, fireplaces, and holiday parties, let’s be honest, the holidays can be a stressful and expensive time of year. Venturing into the mall can by very harrying, to say the least. This year, I managed to avoid the mall completely except for one day when I was finishing up my Christmas shopping. I did most of my shopping online in the comfort of my own home and some of it well before the Christmas shopping mayhem started.

Here are 5 tips that might help you save money during this holiday season:

  • First, establish a Budget- Just like Santa, you need to be making a list and checking it twice.  You don’t necessarily have to check if your recipients have been naughty or nice, but you should write a rough amount of how much money you want to spend on each of them.  Add it all up and this is your estimated Christmas budget.  Try to stick as close to it as possible.
  • Spend Less on Your Christmas Cards– Christmas cards can be expensive!  At $3-$5 for an individual card, and if you have 10-15 people you need to send or write a card to, that’s $30-$45 at least.  Opt for Christmas cards from the dollar store (I got mine from the dollar store this year- you’ll be surprised at the variety that they have!) because everyone knows that people don’t really keep their Christmas cards…unless they’re a hoarder.  Or you can make your own cards to save money.  Or you can print out those photo cards (they usually cost about $0.50 each to make).  Or better yet, send a free e-card (I use 123 greetings.  Sometimes Hallmark has free ecards too).  Or you could even use last years Christmas cards (you know, the ones you bought on December 26 for 50-70% off, remember?).  There are definetly lots of options.
  • Plan ahead if possible to take advantage of any gift cards or points you have–  If you have any gift cards that are sitting around that you haven’t used yet, why not take the opportunity to use them (on others).  You can use those gift cards to buy them something from that store.  That way, it doesn’t come out of your budget.  It’s an extreme form of re-gifting, I suppose!  Also, Shoppers Drug Mart often has bonus redemption days (they just had one earlier this month as mentioned by HowtoSaveMoney.ca) where you can take advantage of the extra redemption offer (e.g. extra $40 to spend by redeeming X amount of points).  I bought a $10 Daily Deal for Chapters Online Book store worth $25 which ended up being handy for Christmas shopping later on.  Inexpensively shares with us how she only spent $30 on Christmas presents this year (un-friggin-believable!) using points and scouring the internet for deals.
  • Buy gifts ahead of time (way ahead)– When I went to Hawaii earlier this year (in October), I bought four gifts  (clothes) at the outlets in town.  Each gift cost me $10-20 but they would retail for about $30-$60 in store (or in overpriced Canadian malls).  I also ended up buying some gifts on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday) and have them mailed to me.
  • Shop Online- Some people are better with shopping online than others.  Personally, I think I am allergic to the mall (I used to work at one, go figure).  At the mall, you get hungry (so you spend money on drinks and food) and distracted (with the word SALE!) with temptations that are so “in your face”.  It’s hard to abstain from spending money on other things when you’re in a situation like that.  Although, some people may find shopping online too easy and would prefer to shop in person so they can easily return things if they don’t work out.  I check out the latest deals with my all-time favourite deal website, Red Flag Deals.

Readers, do you have any other tried and true tips that help you save money during this time of year?

Article comments

Mike says:

Regarding your point about Christmas cards, I think they are nice, but they just cost to much, especially with the stamp, like you mention.
We are using the free personalized call from Santa Claus website from google this year instead of calls. You can send calls to kids or adults. Everyone has loved it!

young says:

@Mike- Oh yeah! I forgot about that one! I hear that Santa Claus actually says people’s names! http://www.sendacallfromsanta.com/

SavingMentor says:

Last minute shopping can be a killer but if you do it last minute and still have a plan, it doesn’t have to be more expensive.

I actually find that the last week of November and first week of December is a fantastic time for shopping due to the number of coupons and sales. Retailers are really competing for your business at this time because they know everyone is primed to spend a boatload of money … they need to make sure you are spending it at THEIR store.

There are still great deals to be found even this week. My hot deals weekly post has many good coupons and sales listed.

young says:

@SavingMentor- yeah, I was actually surprised the deals that are out there (before boxing day). There was 40% off at Jacob (a women’s clothing store) before boxing day- pretty amazing.

I like the dollar store card idea. To be honest, I shop at the discount stores as much as possible and put thing together to make them look expensive. I also try to make things like scarves and things ahead of time that I can give and say that I slaved over.

young says:

@Sandy- LOL that’s exactly what I do! I try and make things look expensive, put them in nice boxes and stuff. Scarves! That’s a fantastic present- those things take a long time… it’s the thought that counts- I would rather receive a hand made scarf than something commericialised any day. I’ve tried knitting but I can’t do it. I don’t think I have the innate patience in me 🙁

DoNotWait says:

Surely have to look closely at those since I did not finish my shopping yet and last minute gifts are sometimes the more expensive… Don’t you think?

young says:

@DoNotWait- hehe, hurry up! Do Not Wait!! (omg I crack myself up!) Yes, last minute gifts are more expensive. My BF ended up spending $180 on only two people.. and for the same two people, I spent $80.

Fox says:

Great article. Two stand out more for me; saving on cards and shopping online. Redflagdeals is awesome. I just printed 2 cupons of 25% off any 1 item @ Kitchen Stuff Plus @ 30% off any one iteam at Chapters. The cards are great to buy at the dollar store, each is typically 75 cents to a Dollar or buy 15-20 card pack @ Walmart, it usually runs around $8-9.Thanks for sharing!

young says:

@Fox- Thanks Fox 🙂 Yeah, I read that there is a large increase in the number of people christmas shopping online this year. I love Redflagdeals too- I didn’t go on it for a while, and then i started going on it religiously daily again (don’t know what came over me..!).