How to Help your Budget Survive the Holiday Season

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With the holiday season in full swing, everyone is frantically panicking with the holiday shopping.  Unless you are loaded with marketing money like Westjet (they surprised everyone on flights from Ontario to Calgary with everything that was on their wishlist, including a large flat screen television).  It was an awesome video and it made me cry and like Westjet even more.  But I digress.  So if you aren't banking on Westjet surprising you and your family with wonderful gifts, here are some suggestions on how to survive the holiday season without breaking the bank.

Since I don't have any children of my own, I am spared the large amount of expenses that it can cost for most people.  Therefore this post probably won't apply to you because it's mainly for people who are spared the holiday children-shopping expense.

Embrace Do It Yourself

survive the holiday seasonAs you all know, I am a huge fan of Do It Yourself gifts especially for Christmas.  Yes, I even wrote a post previously delineating the benefits and drawbacks to homemade gifts.  Frankly I find some gifts that my friends have given me are so thoughtful and delicious (I am a huge fan of edible home-made gifts), that I would much rather receive that than a hand blender.  The important thing about the Do It Yourself gift is that you cap the cost of the gift and that everyone agrees on this.

There's no point in spending $25 per person on a homemade gift because that defeats the ultimate goal of saving money on gifts in the first place.  The other downside with Do It Yourself gifting is that as the years past, you may end up trying to out-do each other.  Spending hours and hours on a homemade project or craft is just going to make you angry and resentful, not embracing the holiday spirit.

Here are some homemade gift ideas that have been a hit with my friends:

  • Homemade baileys (very easily Googable on the internet)- put them in mason jars, add a candy cane, and et voila, you have instant hipster gift!
  • Homemade bath bombs (again, putting these in a mason jar- instant hipster!)
  • Homemade bath salts (super duper easy to make)
  • Homemade jewellery (I love receiving unique, homemade jewelery, all you have to do is hit up Pinterest for ideas)

Play Dirty Santa or Secret Santa

Another strategy to decrease the wallet burden of the holidays is to play dirty santa.  No, it's not what you think it is (though I thought it had inappropriate connotations as well).  Dirty santa is basically gift stealing.  Everyone buys a gift of a certain amount (e.g. $20) and wraps it up.  More kudos to those who can put something super small in super big box to psyche others out.  Then the stealing happens and the fun ensues.  This works well for group holiday parties where people don't really care what they get.

Related: 5 Tips to Help You Save Money During the Holidays

Secret santa is another great way to save money on presents for friends or family.  Set a dollar amount and have each person pick a name.  Just don't allow people to get gift cards because that kind of negates the whole notion of being thoughtful for the holidays.

Opt for Spending Time With Each Other Instead of Gifting

Finally, another strategy that might not be a big fan with everyone is to spend quality time together (for example, a girls getaway trip or even a pedicure session) with your girlfriends instead of getting each person an individual gift.  Although this sort of again, negates the whole concept for giving, thoughtfulness, and consideration for the holidays, it is a great way to save money and spend time with people who you care about.

Before I started the Do It Yourself gift giving with my girlfriends, I was spending an easy $150 and up in total buying gifts for my girlfriends.  Since then, the cost for the holidays has reduced significantly and I probably only spend $40 in total for 3-4 homemade gifts for my friends.  This leaves me feeling less pressure about spending a certain “dollar” amount per friend.  I don't feel like I have to “Keep Up with the Jones” which is clearly not what the holidays are about anyways.

Readers, how to you survive the holiday season?

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

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