I hope you all had a great weekend! I sure did! On Friday night C and I went to see the Raptors play the Miami Heat (that's basketball if you don't know). To be honest with you, the only sporting events I like to go to are baseball games, and mostly because it's always so sunny and nice and I love JP Arencibia. I'm not a sports fan normally by any means... I was fairly bored at the basketball game but TGFSP (thank God for smart phones). I think C had a good time.. Yesterday we were super productive! C woke up and did laundry (aw, good guy) and I went and got my nails done, did some Christmas shopping, bought some new Miracle 10 body lotion (I'll post about it later) and then C and I met up downtown and drove out to the Toronto Premium Outlets. OMG. They're nutso right now, lines to get into stores.... I went into a couple of stores that didn't have a line and bought a new necklace from J Crew that I'm going to wear to my Holiday Social next weekend. Last night we went out to a Live Jazz Bar called Alleycatz up at Yonge and Eglinton here in Toronto. My old roommates sister owns the bar and it was her birthday so it was super fun...
And that brings us to today! Doing some Christmas shopping yesterday got me thinking about how I could be more frugal this Christmas. 2013 has been a good year for me in terms of getting my finances in order and being more "financially healthy" (ie. Paying off loans, paying off credit cards, saving money...) and so why should that all go to waste over Christmas? I don't think that it's right that we spend all this money at Christmas and then have to pay it back over the rest of the year - that seems silly to me... So I'm going to share with you some things that I do in order to keep the stress of money low over the holiday season, while still bringing some serious Christmas Cheer to those who are near :) (see what I did there? Just call me Elf).
1. Save Money
Over the whole year, I put away enough money bi-weekly into a Tax Free Savings Account so that I have $1000 to spend at Christmas. No mess, no fuss, I know that's my budget and the money is there. I don't rack up credit cards, I'm not worried about how I'm going to afford something that someone wants. It's something that accidentally happened a year or so ago. I had saved for a vacation that we didn't end up taking, so I had that money to put towards Christmas and my life was SO MUCH BETTER knowing that it was there and I wasn't worried about my credit card bills. Even if you spend more than $1000 (I buy for a lot of people) it's good to have that money put aside and will make a HUGE difference when Christmas shopping starts.
I have large extended families on both of my parents sides. We normally only gather with 1 side of my family at Christmas but we always give out little gifts to everyone and eventually it all adds up. Last year I started doing little crafty gifts for my extended family. I did Chocolate Chip Cookies In A Jar, where you put all of the dry ingredients for the cookies in the jar and attach a tag with the recipe on it. For my family that is unable to eat the cookies, I made them a mason jar full of different kinds of tea and attached a tea ball to it instead of a tag. It definitely takes more work, but it's also a lot cheaper than buying a gift for every single person I made a jar gift for.
3. Don't Forget About You
A lot of banks have a system now where every time you use your debit card, the bank automatically rounds the dollar figure up and puts the extra money into a savings plan for you. That way you barely notice it, but over time it adds up like crazy. TD has a great program that I know of that does this kind of pre-authorized contribution to your savings. I think it's a great plan, you don't really realize how often you use your debit card so those extra cents quickly add up to lots of dollar dollar bills! :)
4. Make A List, Check It Twice
Before I venture out into the crazy world of Christmas shopping, I always make a list of things I need to get and for whom. This is a good thing for 2 reasons. The first being that it makes your journey into the mall quick and painless. You go in knowing exactly what you need, and you can GET THE HECK out of there! That's exactly what I did yesterday and it was awesome. The second is that you actually stick to a budget. If you plan what you're buying, you should already know the costs and you can plan accordingly. Don't venture off your list - companies WANT you to purchase gifts for people in the "spur of the moment". They do up stores to attract you, they lay things on the table in a certain way, it's ALL calculated to make you buy more.. so just go in, check off what's on your list and get out! :)
There are so many ways to get creative and save money during the holidays, but lets not forget the real reason behind Christmas. It isn't about all the glitz and the glam of new things, it's about spending time with family, with friends and just people that you love and bring you happiness. It's about having your 85 year old Grandma come over Christmas morning to watch us all open presents while she sits on the couch with a huge dog in her lap. It's about getting a huge cup of coffee and not caring that your Dad put Bailey's in it instead of regular milk, who says you can't start drinking at 8am on Christmas day?? It's about knowing exactly what Santa is going to put in your stocking because it's the same essentials every year (and my favourite part of opening gifts). It's about smelling the bacon start cooking for Christmas breakfast and it's about spending time with the fur babies who you only get to see every few months (ok all of this is what happens at MY Christmas, but I hope it happens at yours as well!). :)
What are some ways that you keep frugal during the holidays??
PS - do you like my photos? I'm trying to take better pictures for my blog now. There all of my Christmas tree by the way :).