The holiday season is one of my favourite times of the year. Even though we only have about 8 hours of sunlight a day here in Winnipeg. The lights, snowmen and Christmas spirit tends to keep things warm and joyful (even when it’s -40 outside). It’s a wonderful time of the year to reflect on the past year, look to the next one, and be grateful for the present.
It’s also a great chance to see family and friends, and really catch up on everything we haven’t had a chance to. But it can be an expensive time of year too. Gifts, holiday decorations, big meals, and even travel expenses can really add up and put a strain on your budget. It’s all for family at the end of the day, so we all do what we can. Even if it’s tough.
I’ve too been thinking of the holidays and how to make it a little easier for myself. Things aren’t super easy when you’re in the first year of making a huge career change and starting your own business.
The holidays can be a really expensive time of the year, but by learning a few life hacks, I think we can make it easier of ourselves. Let’s take a look at 3 ways I think we can all easily make it an easier time of year (financially).
1. Save a little throughout the year
Instead of having to dish out a ton of money from a couple of November and December paycheques, save a bit throughout the year. Put that money into a High Interest Savings Account (like this one from Wealthsimple). When money isn’t in your checking account, it’s tough to spend. So put some money into a separate account, let it do its thing, and you won’t feel the holiday burn in your pocket.
You can also do this for bills. Here in Winnipeg (a.k.a. Winterpeg), it gets really cold during winter. Meaning higher electricity and gas bills to keep the house warm, causing big differences in the summer to winter bills. So find the average between the two, and when the payments are lower, take the difference and stash it away. Then when the bills go up, you already have some extra money to put towards them. Or if you know of a big purchase (car or house insurance, taking a trip, etc) coming up, save a bit throughout the year from each paycheque. Even if it seems like an amount too small to matter, it adds up quick.
2. Look out for holiday deals
A great thing about the holidays is all of the sales that come with it. Black Friday, Boxing Day, Year-End Clearance, Holiday Sales, there’s a lot of them out there. When you’re doing your holiday shopping, watch out for great deals – especially online. Look out for deals that offer free shipping (even if it takes a couple days longer to get there).
A great way to really take advantage of sales is to know ahead of time what you plan to get. Try to have an idea of what gifts you want to get and be on the look out as soon as the sales start. You might even find some Christmas gifts during summer sales.
And don’t forget about the after Christmas sales. Need new decorations, a new tree, or wrapping paper? Get it all right after Christmas, because it all goes on super sales. By stocking up a year ahead, you’ll avoid paying a premium, and it will be one less thing to stress about during an already super busy time.
3. Use your credit card rewards
Depending on what type of credit card you have, you may get rewards for using it. I have a free credit card that I receive cash-back for every purchase. It’s not a lot, but over time it adds up. Instead of using the little bit of cash-back as soon as I get it, I try to let it accumulate before I use it. Try to get it up to $50 or $100, then it’s like getting a purchase for free.
You might even have Airmiles or store specific points. Instead of using them for something small, let the points grow and do your shopping with ease. Imagine getting a gift for someone, or providing an entire holiday meal, without spending a cent.
The important thing with credit cards is to make sure you make your payments on time and in full, otherwise you end up paying a ton in interest. Don’t feel like you need to pay for a good rewards card either. A lot of great rewards credit cards or store specific reward cards are free. The hardest part usually is just signing up.
The holidays can be tough, there always seems to be a million things to do and never enough time. So try to focus on some things that you can control. They don’t have to be big things either. But I think trying to stick to a budget and spend within our means can make a world of difference. And finding ways to meet that budget without spending money, is even better.
If you have a big family, you could try doing a secret santa or another gift giving system to lighten the financial burden. The most important part of the holidays is the time spent together, so keep that in mind too before all else.