The following is a guest post by Angela Quint.
The summer flies by all too fast, then there’s the back-to-school rush, and just as you start to settle down, Halloween is just around the corner. There’s no turning back after that. Halloween blends into Thanksgiving and then right into the winter holidays before you know it. Despite all the holiday fun, there are also a lot of expenses such as large family meals, classroom parties and gifts. The good news is that you and your family can still enjoy the holidays without shooting major holes in your budget.
Trick or Treat?
Some families prefer to take their kids out for trick-or-treating, while others would rather have their own Halloween parties. Whatever the case, your children are almost certainly going to want to wear costumes. One way to save some money is to skip the store-bought costumes and make your own kids’ Halloween costumes from items you have at home or can easily buy from a local thrift store. Kids always have a first choice when it comes to Halloween costumes, but you can get them excited about other ideas too, especially if they can help make the costume with you.
Kids may like the “good stuff” like Hershey’s candy bars, if you get a lot of a knocks on the door they can be expensive treats to give out to people you don’t know. Visit your local bargain store like Family Dollar or Dollar General for store brand candy that is just as good for less money. If you have neighbors or family members that you want to have “good” candy for, then buy enough for them and have separate candy bowls so you can select who gets what. Don’t try to show up the “cool” neighbors who give out full size candy bars, stick to what is best for your budget.
Feast for Less
Have you ever planned a small Thanksgiving dinner for the family only to have it end up being a huge dinner party? Aunt Martha comes into town, or your spouse wants to bring over one of his or her co-workers who does not have a place to go to dinner, or you end up talking to someone who not-so-subtly wrangles an invitation from you. These things happen. Instead of getting stressed, do some smart shopping so that you can cook a big meal without spending too much. Also, make it a point to check out sales at different grocery stores so you can find the best prices.
Other good suggestions are to scale back the appetizers you serve and how many side dishes you prepare. Most people are going to eat plenty during the meal so small appetizers like pepperoni, cheese and crackers are sufficient. Additionally, many people load up their Thanksgiving table with more starches than they really should. Mashed potatoes, rolls, yams and stuffing may be traditional favorites, but all of them in one meal can be too much of a good thing. Likewise, you don’t need three different types of pie for desert just so that everyone has their favorite choice.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another winter holiday, gift-giving can be expensive. Even worse, many people feel the need to impress others by giving expensive gifts they really can’t afford. According to debtconsolidation.com, in 2012, 30% of Americans intended to spend $1,000 or more on holiday gifts. If you’re going to spend that much money, or more, then spend it wisely. Don’t try to impress people who won’t appreciate your generosity and save your money for people who will.
One of the best strategies is to make a list of all the people you intend to buy gifts for and set a fixed amount for each person. This may seem extremely calculated, but it’s just smart budgeting. Decide what you can afford to spend, without resorting to charge cards, and split that amount among the people on your list. If you find something for someone that they will just love that happens to be under your budget, then set the extra money aside to buy a few extra items in case you run into a pinch and need a few last-minute gifts.
Happy New Year!
Going out for New Year’s Eve can be a lot of fun, but it is seldom ever cheap. Bars and nightclubs are not only packed, but they charge outrageous cover prices for one free drink and questionable buffet. If you pick a nicer place with better food, you can be sure admission price will be higher too. Also, if you drink and don’t have a designated driver, then you’ll have to call a cab. Besides, is paying bar prices for drinks really a good idea? If you’re someone who loves to be in a crowd on New Year’s Eve, either budget for it in advance or consider other options.
Believe it or not, you can have your own New Year’s Eve party at home for less than you will spend going out. Another option is to consider invitations from other couples or families who are having parties of their own. If you don’t need the roar of the crowd to have a good time, then consider having a family party at home. Instead of making a regular meal, have a meal full of different appetizers and let your kids stay up late. Throw in some cheap noisemakers, and a New Year’s Eve at home can be just as fun as a night out.
The holidays are always a bustle of activity and people often find themselves making last-minute decisions that cost them more money than they really should spend. Instead of waiting for the holidays to catch up with you, try to plan ahead. Consider starting a separate savings account just for holiday expenses and give yourself some wriggle room for the inevitable extras that seem to always pop-up. If you plan your finances in advance, you will be less stressed and a lot less likely to overspend.
About the Author: Angela Quint loves to find creative ways to spoil her family without blowing her budget out of the water; and she enjoys helping others do the same!