Make gifts instead of buying | Inside Deals - December, 13th 2019

Inside Deals (Dec 13th, 2019)

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The average American will spend over $900 on holiday gifts this year, a daunting figure that adds to what is already the most stressful time of year. There are plenty of ways, however, to make it through the holiday season without maxing out your credit card. For today's Frugal Fridays, we're offering some tips on how to save money during the holidays.

1. Include yourself in your Christmas shopping. This may seem counterintuitive, but when you're shopping online or in a store, you're likely to be compelled to purchase something for yourself anyway. According to financial adviser Clark Howard, setting a personal budget will allow you to spend less on impulse purchases while still getting to treat yourself.

2. Speaking of budgets, set one listing people to gift. The first thing most people do before starting their shopping is making a list of all the people they need to buy gifts for. But, this can lead to overspending, as we try to pick out the perfect gift for all of our family and friends. Instead, set a budget and then determine how to purchase all gifts while staying inside that budget.

3. Use holiday sales to get deals on things you know you'll need later in the year. It may not save you money right now, but purchasing a Chewbacca interactive plush toy for a child's April birthday while it's 50 percent off now will put some cushion into your 2020 budget.

(Last week, we shared ideas on how to get married on a budget, and the holidays can be a great time to make wedding purchases that will be more expensive in the new year. Bridal apparel shops can offer big discounts in November and December as they're the slowest months for wedding dress sales.)

4. Use the dollar store. Not everything at Dollar General or 99 Cents Only is high quality, but there are plenty of holiday necessities you can get there to save a few bucks, including gift wrap, gift bags, greeting cards, and seasonal decor.

5. Make gifts instead of buying. This one depends a little bit on the recipient, of course, but many people prefer a well-considered, handmade present to another impersonal Starbucks card. These gifts can also be tailor-made to your skillset and your recipient's interest. A foodie might love some home-brewed beer or infused olive oil. Someone who just moved into a new house might appreciate a vintage license plate birdhouse. Anything you can make yourself and put some thought into is almost guaranteed to resonate with the your giftee.

6. Use cash for holiday shopping. Studies have shown that it hurts more, psychologically, to pay with cash – when the loss of money is more visceral –  than to use a credit card, where the transfer feels more passive. These studies have also shown that people will spend more using a credit card over cash, and purchases are likely to be more frivolous. So, if you've already established a budget, go to the bank and get that amount in cash for your shopping.

7. Get rid of stuff you don't need. Unless everyone on your shopping list is a child, you're likely to be receiving plenty of gifts as well. Make room for those gifts by taking a look around your home for things to give away or sell. As a general rule, anything you haven't used in at least six months, you probably don't need. Take advantage of eBay, Craigslist, or Letgo to earn some money on your junk that you can use on gifts.

8. Skip the alcohol when going out. It's a simple thing, but can save significant sums during the holiday season. Alcohol sales typically double between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Undoubtedly, some of this is due to office holiday parties and social functions for which you may not have to foot the bill. But, other outings with additional alcohol purchases can total in the hundreds over the course of the month.

9. Plan a Secret Santa with family or friends. This requires participation from others, but if you can get your family or a group of friends to agree, everyone benefits. A group of six people will only receive one present individually, but they'll only have to buy one gift each, which can make the holidays a whole lot less stressful and save hundreds of dollars in the process. There's a good reason most offices do Secret Santas (or the infinitely more chaotic White Elephant gift exchange).

10. The day after Christmas, buy cheap for next year. Come Dec. 26, retailers will have a whole bunch of stuff they're looking to get rid of. If you've got a place to stash an artificial Christmas tree or a string of lights for about 335 days, it's likely to be heavily discounted immediately after Christmas. 

Jonathan Harris is a Los Angeles-based writer. Previously, he wrote for The Huffington Post, TakePart.com, and the YouTube channel What’s Trending. He’s a frequent performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter @countrycaravan.

Inside may earn a commission from purchases made through affiliate links in this newsletter.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Deals editor.

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