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Editors Note: This post was originally published in December 2018, but was updated in November 2019
For me, saving money is an issue of stewardship.
You see, my husband and I started out our married life in debt. Four kids later and struggling to live off one income, we decided our current lifestyle wasn't working.
Several years of belt-tightening and making hard financial decisions taught us a lot of life lessons and, eventually, we were able to live a debt-free lifestyle.
Probably the biggest lesson we learned through this was how to be intentional with all of our purchases -- from sandwich baggies to vehicles, we have learned to evaluate each purchase, consider whether it is really necessary, shop for the best price, and put it in context of our larger financial goals.
Christmas gift-giving is no exception!
So, here are my 4 Simple Ways to Save Money this Christmas
Make a budget and stick to it.
We use the envelope system for budgeting. (For a simple explanation of the envelope system, see this article on Dave Ramsey's blog.) A certain amount from each paycheck goes into an envelope for Christmas. The money accumulates in the envelope year-round (beginning in January) and we don't tap into the cash for anything other than Christmas presents.
If you don't use the envelope system, set aside money from a tax return, profit-sharing or other windfall.
Commit to only spend that much money, no matter what!
This means lists. Even if you aren't a list kind of gal, you need a list. And check it more than twice! Keep lists of people you are buying for, ideas for the kids/spouse, gift wrap items you need (don't forget extra tape!), items needed for DIY gifts, and even special ingredients for holiday baking.
Staying organized helps you avoid last-minutes trips to the store for all those little, but important things you forgot. These trips cost far more than many people realize.
First, they cost you time and gas. Second, studies consistently show that stores use tricks to entice shoppers to spend more money. And it works. How many times have you gone into the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk only to end up buying 5 more things?
Fewer trips to the store mean saving more money.
Having a thorough list and sticking to it also means more intentional gift giving. You have already considered all the proposed gift ideas for each person on your list, done your "homework" of researching the best price and decided on the best option(s) for each person before you even go shopping.
For the kids, consider your purchases in the context of
If my child wants a cute and cuddly stuffed animal they saw in the Toys R Us catalog, but previous stuffed animals have just collected dust in his/her bedroom before eventually being donated to a thrift store, then why would I purchase another one? I want to use my dollars wisely and not encourage consumerism in my child.
Please let me put this into perspective. The goal here is not to find the "perfect" Christmas present or make my child's Christmas "complete" by giving the best gifts possible.
The goal is simply stewardship.
We want to use the resources God has granted wisely. It's about being thoughtful and intentional in all the ways we spend money, including gift giving.
Start planning your Christmas shopping well in advance. Don't wait until a couple of weeks before Christmas to decide how much to spend (ideally, this should be done the previous January when you set up your annual budget) or what you're going to buy for each person.
The earlier you start shopping, the more time you have to shop around (either on the Internet or in physical stores) for the best price, wait for an item to go on sale, look for extra percent-off coupons, etc.
Last-minute shoppers get the fewest bargains because they've run out of the time and need the item now, regardless of the price.
Also, some stores will honor price adjustments for previous purchases within so many days. So, for example, if you determine that you've found the best price on an item and purchase it at Kohl's Department Store, and then it goes on sale the following week, they'll honor the sale price and give you a refund for the difference! LifeHacker has a complete list of stores that honor price drops.
Never pay full price.
*These links are not paid referral links or endorsements. Sisters with a System does not receive any compensation through these links. These are simply resources we have used in the past to save money.*
As I said before, the benefit of starting early is having more time to find the best bargain. This applies not only to shopping around for the best price, but also looking for discounts.
For online purchases, always check websites like Retail Me Not or Coupon Cabin for a promo code before making a purchase. You can also check the store's website for current coupon codes or printable coupons (for in-store purchases).
Honey is another site I've recently begun using.
These 4 ways to save money might seem very simple, but you'll be surprised at the huge impact!
What other ways do you save money at Christmas?
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