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Over the next 2 months you’ll probably find me dancing through the house singing, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Festivities aside, we know that this season can also be burdensome to our wallets. If you’re a perfectionist gift-giver like me, you’ve probably shelled out more than you expected on holiday gifts in the past. We all just want to give awesome gifts, right?
You might not have the budget to buy all of your sisters a pair of Christian Louboutins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give great gifts and while sticking to a reasonable budget. Yesterday I hosted an event with Boost Mobile and Sprint to share my top tips to save money during the holidays. Both brands recognize it can be a financially stressful time for consumers and want to help them be better about both saving and smart spending this season. In the spirit of giving, I wanted to share them with you all as well. Believe me, it’s possible to budget for holiday shopping without going flat-broke. Just follow my tips below and see what you can do to make this holiday season more financially manageable!
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Make a “To-Gift” List
To me, holiday gifts are just like wedding invitations; realistically, you can’t give them to everyone you know. Do the neighbors you never talk to really need a wine and cheese gift basket? Will your friends even be in town to receive a gift this year? Think of the holiday parties you’ll be going to and who you plan to see this holiday season, and build your list from there. If you want to keep it simple, think of it like this… who’s been naughty and who’s been nice to you this year?
Create a Master Budget
It’s important to set a rough number that won’t prevent you from paying bills or putting food on the table during this time of year. Can you manage taking out $300 per paycheck over the next few weeks, or will your holiday bonuses allow you to spend $1,000 on gifts? Make this budget a general estimate, because you’ll want some wiggle room in the event you wind up going a little over (we’re talking a few bucks over, not hundreds!).
Set a Budget For Each Person
The next step is setting a budget for each person who’s made it on your gift list. While your best friend might appreciate a $20 handmade bracelet, your mom might want that pricier Chanel No. 5 perfume. Some gifts you’ll save on while others you might splurge, so think carefully about what every person on your list might like and estimate how much it will be.
Choose a Specific Gift For Each Person, and Stick To It
If you can’t afford that Chanel perfume for your mom, you can always find something a little more affordable like a Chanel lipstick. Remember, the key to a good gift is being thoughtful, not expensive! And just because you’re on a budget this season doesn’t mean you have to give lousy gifts either: be creative and take the time to brainstorm the perfect gift. Trust me, you’ll be proud of your efforts and also save tons of money while you’re at it.
Don’t go shopping until you have a gift in mind. Wandering into the store with no game plan often results in frivolous overspending. Decide on your gift beforehand and visit the store with the intent to buy that exact item. And although it might seem tempting, avoid getting extra presents or stocking stuffers that you see at the store. Stick to your plan if you want to stay within budget!
Whatever you decide to give, avoid giving gift cards or cash. It’s easier to buy a $50 necklace on sale for $30, but if you buy a $50 gift card your recipient will still have to pay for the remaining sales tax. You can always find discounts on items, whereas gift cards and cash don’t give as much of a bang for your buck.
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Strategize Where You Will Shop
Figure out where you’ll buy each gift. Some brands have huge sales during the holidays while other brands like Apple have no sales at all, so choose wisely!
I personally prefer to shop online because I can compare prices across retailers without wasting time driving from store to store. My favorite “one-stop-shop” stores: Amazon has some great early Black Friday sales and daily lightning deals while Shopbop‘s sale section is perfect for people who like quality designer clothing. Do your research and find the brands that will carry your perfect gift.
On the flip side of the coin, sometimes shopping in-store can yield some great spoils. I love to shop at outlet malls such as Cabazon Outlets or Ontario Mills in Southern California as they have daily outlet sales and even bigger sales during Black Friday.
I love that Boost Mobile and Sprint offer deals both online and in stores. Perfect for the techies or talkies in your life, the gift of smartphones and plans – aka the gift of connectivity – are truly ones that keep on giving. If you have a parent in the market for an affordable family plan, or a grandmother across the country who you’d love to get on text message, then check out the wireless carriers’ sites and stores (see more details about the brand’s offerings in the Reduce Your Extra Spending section)!
No matter where you shop, I suggest avoiding huge retailers that carry hot items and try to find smaller brands that sell comparable items for cheaper. For example, although Revolve carries a lot of trendy women’s clothing I can buy tons of similar pieces from Forever 21, GoJane or ASOS for much less.
Figure Out a Time to Buy
Some items such as electronics can go on sale during Black Friday, so hold off on buying a regular-priced item if you predict it will go on sale. Also consider Cyber Monday (which is also great for booking flights, FYI!) and Small Business Saturday. Boxing Day is also the day after Christmas, so if you want to buy something from an international retailer and your recipient doesn’t mind a late gift, there’s another opportunity to save.
Some retailers start their holiday promotions early. Right now you can get an iPhone X on Sprint when you lease the latest iPhone and for a limited time, mix and match iPhone X, XS, XS Max, XR models and higher memory configurations for the lease one and get one device. This awesome deal is available for new lines and upgrades and requires at least one new line of service. Check out Sprint.com for full details.
Consider Shopping Through Online Deal Clubs
Would you believe me if I told you that 2 years ago I was able to buy holiday gifts for my immediate family, friends and 2 family in-laws for less than $100 altogether? It’s true! Online deal clubs work with small businesses to promote their items at a discounted price so that deal club customers can purchase and test their products out. Businesses get a buzz about their products and customers can enjoy shopping for products for 50% off or more! I commonly see items discounted between $1 – $10 on most deal clubs, so you’ll definitely save tons of money if you choose to buy all your holiday gifts exclusively through deal clubs.
Here are some of my favorite deal clubs – they’re free to join and you can redeem your coupons through Amazon! Side note: If you don’t already have Amazon Prime, you should definitely try it free for 30 days since you’ll save even more money thanks to the free shipping perks included with your Prime membership.
Reduce Your Extra Spending
If you go out to eat every day for lunch, consider bringing lunch from home for a while. Maybe you can sacrifice Spotify or Apple Music for 2 months (with Spotify you can still listen for free!). Have an itch to buy something? Consider satisfying your shopping impulses by purchasing gifts on your list instead of something for yourself. After all, this season should be about giving to others!
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If you’ve been struggling with staying under your budget even before the holidays, take your holiday budgeting as a first step in revamping your everyday budget altogether. What other ways can you save? Do you really need cable television and Netflix, or do you spend 95% of your TV time on Netflix only? Have you tried negotiating your bills? What about switching to a more affordable cell phone service provider?
Sprint currently has offers on new phones, so if you’ve been thinking about that new iPhone XR you can lease one for $0 today and $0 monthly on an 18-month lease. And if you already have a phone, you can save $10 a month per line on their unlimited plans when you bring your phone over. Unlimited plans start at $60 per month, and the Unlimited Plus Plan also includes features like TIDAL music streaming and Hulu too (say goodbye to your cable bill!). Regardless of what plan you choose, you will have access to Sprint’s nationwide network, high-speed data and unlimited international text.
If you don’t want to jump into another contract, Boost Mobile offers prepaid plans starting as low as $30 per month so that you can pay as you go. Even better? All plans provide you with unlimited data, talk and text and 99 percent nationwide coverage. And for a limited time, new customers can get four lines of unlimited data, talk and text for only $25 per line per month. You can also shop certified pre-owned iPhones starting at just $129.99. All phones come with free shipping, a 7-day guarantee, and you also get to keep your current phone number! Check out their latest deals on devices here.
Take On a Side Hustle
Have a hobby you’d like to monetize? Now’s the time. Consider selling the crafts you make: candles, knitted goods, or any other items you can make can be sold either locally or online on websites like Etsy. If you’ve got a lawn mower and some gardening tools, maybe you can offer your services around your neighborhood. Try babysitting for your friends and family or even consider starting a child care service if you’re certified.
If you don’t have any equipment or hobbies you can utilize to make some extra cash, you can always try to walk dogs on the Rover app, take surveys on QuickThoughts for gift cards or even take on some part-time virtual assistant work during the holiday season.
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Clean Your Home and Sell Your Stuff
I personally love this tip because I hate accumulating unnecessary clutter! During this time of year I go through all of my stuff and sell things I don’t need anymore. I frequently list pre-owned items like electronics and unopened makeup on eBay, since they sell fast. I find that used clothing and shoes don’t sell too quickly on eBay, so I list them on Poshmark instead (sign up using this link and use code “AILEENLUIB” and get a $5 credit). For furniture and appliances I sell them locally through Craigslist, OfferUp, LetGo and Facebook Marketplace so that buyers can pick up the items and I can get paid the same day without any transaction fees. Every platform has its perks, so list your items accordingly!
Work Some Overtime
This is probably the easiest and foolproof way to make more money. Consider working some overtime or offer to pick up shifts for coworkers to scrape up some extra cash. Of course, it’s important that you also implement a budgeting strategy alongside working extra hours – what good is extra money if you wind up spending it on other things?
Thanks to Sprint and Boost mobile for hosting me last night and helping consumers save not only during the holidays, but all year long. Check out their array of plans and devices at your neighborhood store or on BoostMobile.com and Sprint.com. Be sure to follow them on Facebook (@boostmobile / @sprint), Instagram (@boostmobile / @sprint), and Twitter (@boostmobile / @sprint)!
I’d love to hear the ways you come up with to spend wisely this holiday season! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter for more budgeting tips and tricks.
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