Christmas is just around the corner, making this the perfect time to figure out how to play Santa Claus on a shoestring budget during the holidays.
The following five tips can help you get the job done.
Make your shopping list the Clark Smart way
Come up with a total dollar amount you feel comfortable spending. Then write out the names of everyone on your list.
Put specific dollar amounts by each name to indicate how much you’ll spend on each person. Once you’re done, add up all those figures.
If you are over your budget, start marking people off the list or scaling back the dollar amounts next to each name until you’re within budget. Take that paper with you when you’re out shopping. Keep a running tally as you make purchases.
If you spend less than anticipated on one person, you have more money to spend on someone else. If you spend more on someone, then you’ll have less to spend on others.
Bonus tip: Include yourself on the list with a dollar amount too. Studies suggest half of all holiday shopping you do when you’re supposedly shopping for others is probably going to be for you!
Go to the dollar store
Consumer Reports took a close look at dollar stores in their Money Adviser publication and revealed what’s a deal and what’s not.
Get gift wrap, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, and tape at dollar stores — especially at Dollar Tree and the 99-Cent Only, where everything is $1, no exceptions.
But even bigger ticket items can be a deal, particularly at Dollar General, which sells merchandise at a variety of price points — not just $1!
Dollar General has a handful of super-savings days specific to their stores!
Here’s what to expect for each group of dates:
Sunday, November 19 through Wednesday, November 22
- Buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) offers
- Special deals on preparations for a tasty Thanksgiving meal
- Savings on electronics, holiday gift options and more
Thursday, November 23 through Saturday, November 25
- BOGO offers on assorted As Seen on TV® items, food storage containers, cosmetics and select coffees
- 75% off a second qualifying toy when you buy the first one at full price
- 50% savings on all holiday tree décor including trees, ornaments, lights, tree skirts and tree toppers
- 50% savings on plush, fleece and flannel throws
- 20% off two or more qualifying gift card purchases
- Deep discounts on electronics from Polaroid®, Vivitar® and iRocker
Layaway is something old that’s become new again at many retailers.
Here’s how it works: You go in to a store and put down a deposit that’s typically $10 to $20 or 10% to 20% of the purchase price (whichever is greater) for an item you want. Then you make installment payments every 14 days until the item is paid in full.
Kmart, Walmart and Babies R Us/Toys R Us have all done layaway for the past few years and are doing it again this year.
But be careful: If you don’t pay in full before mid-December, you don’t get the item and could lose all the money you’ve already paid in. (Check individual retailer policies for exact dates.)
Buy an artificial Christmas tree
One of the best bargains of the Christmas season is an artificial tree. Many people prefer a real tree for sentimental reasons or they just like the smell of it.
Costco usually has beautiful Frasier firs for $29.97. That’s great for one season, but over time an artificial tree will save you a lot of money.
Of course, the best day to buy an artificial tree is Dec. 26, when the price has been marked down!
Ship gift packages back home
If you travel to be with family during Christmas, you may face hefty baggage fees when you try to return with all the gifts you’ve received. Shipping packages with UPS Ground or FedEx Ground can help.
A medium-sized 18′ x 18′ x 16′ (3.0 cubic feet) box will typically ship for $20-$25. Many big-box office supply stores have UPS and FedEx drop-off points, as well as USPS pickup. Be sure to compare the cost on all these services before making a decision.