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7 Things You Can Do Today to Make the Most of Your Christmas Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 16, 2009 · 19 comments

Christmas list shopping deals

Photo by Lester Public Library

The following is a guest post from Mandi Ehman, the Deal Seeking Mom Project Administrator:

Christmas is only ten weeks away! What can you do today (or this weekend) to save money during this holiday season?

1. Write down your budget.

It's extremely easy to overspend during the holiday season, and the best way to fight back against this tendency is to make a written budget divided into spending categories such as decor, gifts, baking, entertaining, events, etc. so that you can see exactly where you're spending money. Think through all of your holiday expenses now to make your budget as complete as possible, but remember to update it to reflect any additional spending along the way. Keeping a running total will prevent sticker shock when you start totaling receipts in January and realize exactly how much you spent.

To help yourself stick to a budget, consider using cash (similar to the envelope system) or opening an ING Direct Electric Orange checking account dedicated to Christmas spending so that you can't overspend.

2. Consider having "a handmade Christmas."

Handmade gifts don't have to mean popsicle stick picture frames or tin can pencil holders. Thanks to the vast number of resources available across the internet, having a handmade Christmas is easier than ever. Chances are that you can find directions somewhere on the web for almost any project you can think of, from homemade truffles and fudge to a felt crayon roll or handmade candles and potpourris. Or for less crafty options, you could put together a DVD of old home videos or frame kids' artwork.

The keys to successfully pulling off a handmade Christmas are brainstorming, planning and starting early so that you have plenty of time to adjust as you go and make up for mistakes along the way.

3. Make your gift lists.

Similar to having a written budget, having a gift list written down and full of ideas helps you stay on track to buy what you need for everyone n your list without having to make a last-minute run to the mall or place a last-minute online order with express shipping.

As you're brainstorming gift ideas, it's important to find a balance between being specific for things like popular kids toys and having broader ideas for other people on your list (in case you can't find the teal cashmere v-neck sweater you pictured in your mind as the perfect gift for your mother-in-law). Specific is good once you know a certain item exists and is fairly easy to find; it's not so good when you're thinking through possible gift ideas in your mind.

4. Set limits.

Remember that overspending does not lead to a merrier Christmas. Set limits on your budget and the number of gifts you give, and make up for any deficit in dollars with creativity and thoughtfulness!

5. Subscribe to Deal Seeking Mom.

We're already thinking about the holidays here at Deal Seeking Mom, and you can be sure that Tara will have tons of great deals, coupons and sales to share with you throughout the season. She's already mentioned the great toy coupons that came out at the beginning of the month, and my guess is you'll see plenty more of those over the next two months. We've also got some exciting projects in the works to help you with your holiday shopping, so be sure to subscribe by email or in a feed reader if you haven't already!

6. Begin shopping now.

Once you have your budget and gift list, you're ready to start making a shopping list to take advantage of deals as they come along. For example, my little sister is a freshman in college, and I know she'd love this 27-piece set from E.L.F. along with some lip glosses and makeup brushes, so I plan to take advantage of that deal!  Many people have been stocking up all year thanks to the great coupons Bath & Body Works puts out on a regular basis. Be sure to make a baking list too so that you can start stocking up on the ingredients you need as coupons come out on those products.

7. Bonus tip: Budget now for the after-Christmas sales.

The weeks after Christmas are a great time to stock up on Christmas cards, gift wrap and decor at 75 to 90% off for next year!

Have you started preparing for Christmas yet? What's your best money-saving tip for the holidays?

Mandi Ehman is the Deal Seeking Mom Project Administrator. She can also be found blogging at Organizing Your Way, where she shares tips for organizing, simplifying and decluttering as well as home management printables. Subscribe by email or in a feed reader to receive daily organizing tips!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 terri rice October 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I love finding the deals after Christmas on cards & wrapping paper and such. Basically, it's put right up for a whole year and it's fun when it's time to get your 'stuff' out and you have all these new items you forgot you bought a year before!!

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2 Denisse @ The Coupon Chica October 16, 2009 at 8:00 pm

I do exactly the same thing! Also, to save paper and boxes this year, I've been collecting shoe boxes from our shoe purchases (not many this year) ;) to wrap up for this Christmas, so people can save them and use them again next year! My family and friends think it's a great idea!

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3 Kristen October 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I love the holidays, my parents love to get calendars with pictures of my girls on it. Up untill the other year I always bought one that you slid the pictures in. Now I create one publishing software and email it to my local print shop all complete. They print it at $.39 a color sheet plus $2.00 for binding. So I get a great calendar for under $10.00 verses 17.99.

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4 wendy October 16, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I've started purchasing movie gift cards for the kids in my family. Ten dollars covers a kid ticket and a movie meal. Easy and really inexpensive compared to a $20 per kid budget! Plus, my kids LOVE getting them;)

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5 John DeFlumeri Jr October 17, 2009 at 5:38 am

You are right to remind us of the upcoming holidays, and the ways we can save BIG. I thank you for this.

John DeFlumeri Jr

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6 sherri October 17, 2009 at 9:14 am

I shop after Halloween clearance sales for candy (that is not wrapped in Halloween wrappers or colors.) The candy makes great stocking stuffers. I also put some in sandwich size ziploc baggies with Christmas stickers on it for my husband to bring to work. He brought in close to 40 last year. At 75-90% off, this was affordable.

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7 Jene October 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

I try to give "experience" gifts. I look for coupons on restaurant.com and then go to the restaurant and get a menu or copy. To me packaging is everything, so I make it suitable to the gift, sometimes it's "green" like wrapping the gift in a kitchen towel, other times it's in a funky package I've gotten throughout the year. I've been known to buy a plastic beach pail and put a gift certificate and goodies from a local "islands-type" restaurant.

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8 Roxana October 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Hi, I'm new to this website but I just wanted to let you know that I love learning from you! Also, maybe you could post this as an edit to tip # 1, since I'm sure lots of mom's could benefit from an extra $50. ING Direct is running a promotion on their Electric Orange Savings Accounts, and they give you a $50 account bonus if you meet certain conditions. The bonus is deposited after 50 days, so if people open the accounts now, they should get the $50 near Christmas!

http://www.ingdirect.com/electric50/

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9 Roxana October 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

* oops, I meant they are running a promotion on their Electric Orange CHECKING account! Sorry!

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10 andrea October 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

We have not only Christmas but birthdays for two of my sons in late November and one daughter in early January!! So I have to start early.

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11 meech t October 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I love all of the tips on this website! I check this site everyday and learn lots of new things! Thanks!

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12 Anne October 17, 2009 at 5:56 pm

It might be a bit late for this year, but I always shop the uber-clearances after the back-to-school sales. You can pick up all sorts of stocking stuffers for children such as markers, crayons, cute pencils, etc. I always get multi-packs of tape at a ridiculous price. Teachers also appreciate getting a mid-year restock of classroom supplies instead of another apple shaped gift. At the after Christmas sales, I try to find solid colored wrapping paper that can be used all year. I'm still using up paper I picked up at 90% off two years ago! Don't forget red containers that can be used for Valentine's Day. Or green if you want small St. Patty's Day gifts. I give ornaments to a lot of people every year, so I always buy those when they are 80 to 90% off and save for the next year. Grocery stores & office supply stores are great place to pick up gifts that are clearanced out, as well as tape, etc. I've found that those types of stores mark them down quicker and better earlier than other stores.NOW is the time to pick up holiday items at the dollar store. You can pick up cute containers to fill with that sale Halloween candy!

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13 Brenda Estacio October 17, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Looking for a great gift idea or stocking stuffers for family and friends, the new fantasy novel, "Gateway to DreamWorld," was released last month and has been receiving rave reviews.

During the cold months ahead, they will curl up in a warm blanket or in front of the fireplace and enter a fantasy world filled with excitement and suspense.

The book is listed on Amazon.com, Barnes&Nobles.com, and Powell’s Books.com

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14 Jennifer October 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

Last year I scored a great gift for my 2 year old neice by shopping the after Halloween sales. She enjoyed modeling her Snow White dress on Christmas morning!

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15 Remy October 19, 2009 at 11:28 am

Get Christmas Gifts for FREE - Swap you unused gifts for new ones or barter services for goods or other services!!! I still have timeless gifts from years back that I have never used and still in the packaging: body care basket, home goods, etc. I swap anything on http://www.toolzdo.com/, it's multiple privacy settings, interactive member profiles and local access to goods makes it the safest and easiest place to swap. May as well put them to good use instead of letting them collect dust. Choose which gifts your recycle very wisely, so not to hurt anyone's feelings.

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16 katy October 19, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I also will get toys from craigslist. My daughter is 20 months old, and has no clue if something is new or not, nor does she care. Toys are just as fun even if someone else has played with them before. Usually they just need a good wipe-down. Tons of money saved!

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17 Rachell October 21, 2009 at 1:44 pm

My husband and I budget money every month for Christmas. We do not do a traditional Christmas club. Instead it is part of our envelope budget system. This is helpful, in case we see something on clearance through the year we can purchase it then and stash the gift away until Christmas.
Also, in our extended family, we only buy gifts for the children. Adults either draw names from a hat on Thanksgiving evening and do a traditional gift exchange or, as we did last year, play a game (Nasty Santa) with the exchange gifts. We always do a preset spending limit and the adults do their gift exchange on Christmas Eve... makes for a great party!

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18 Holly November 1, 2009 at 7:46 am

My family has always done this, but now, with money being tighter and the environment on everyone's mind, I recommend more people consider this: Ask Santa to NOT wrap presents. Think of the time, energy, and money all those elves spend on wrapping! And think of the trash you put to the curb afterward! It's a wonderful thing, and really gives those elves a break during a very hectic time! I'm sure they enjoy the holiday more because of it!

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19 Anne November 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Years ago, I grabbed some fabric and stitched up gift bags. You can easily recycle any type of fabric from your 'stash', old clothes, linens, etc. With a serger, you can create dozens in an hour. Simply stitch up the bag, inserting a piece of ribbon in the side seam about 2 inches from the top, serge the top, fold it over and stitch down. I could write more detailed instructions if you want them! But, the fabric bags are completely re-usable and still allow the recipient the fun of un-wrapping their gift.

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