Christmas Shopping on a Budget

The pressure and temptation to spend increases each holiday season. This is especially true if you have children, as it is very easy to feel that you are letting them down if you do not give them at least some of the expensive toys that they want. The good news is that it is possible to set and keep to a budget for your Christmas shopping. Here are some tips for doing so.

Make a List and Check it Twice

Write a list of the people to whom you wish to give Christmas presents. It is fine to restrict this list to very close friends and family. Don't feel pressure to give gifts to everyone you know.

Next, write down the maximum amount that you plan to spend on each person’s gift and calculate the total amount. If you are shocked by this total, go back and reduce some or all of the amounts until you reach a total you are happy with.

Once you begin your Christmas shopping, your aim should be to find gifts for each person on your list at the budget or below it. Start by visiting websites and stores where you can find good quality presents at low prices. eBay is a very good place to begin your search. In particular, you can find new children’s toys, games, clothes and other accessories at prices well below the normal retail prices. eBay sellers can afford to sell at these rates because they have less overhead than traditional retailers.

Before ordering from an eBay seller, remember to read the feedback left by other buyers to ensure you are dealing with a reputable, efficient business. It is also a good idea to read the seller’s return policy to ensure that you can return the goods within a certain time frame if you were not satisfied with them.

Other places to shop for good value Christmas gifts include consignment stores and thrift stores. You will be amazed at what you can find once you start looking. Donations to these stores often include unwanted gifts and brand new clothing that still has the original label attached, all for much less than the recommended retail prices.

Outlet malls are also a great place to shop for gifts at lower than retail prices. However, the temptation here may be spend more than you intend, since there are so many goods at reduced prices. If you do visit an outlet mall, keep strictly to your spending limits for each present and resist the temptation to buy extra things, just because the prices are so low.

Stock Up on Christmas Wrapping Paper, Tags and Cards

All of these essential Christmas-related articles can add up to a relatively large amount. The best way of saving money on wrapping paper, tags and cards is to buy them the previous year in the January sales, when they are vastly reduced in price.

It is more economical to buy a few large rolls of wrapping paper that will suit everyone than it is to buy individual sheets of wrapping paper for each recipient of your gifts. You could, for example, choose a simple, modern design that will be suitable for all of the adults. If you have many young children to buy presents for, try and find a roll of wrapping paper that will appeal to both boys and girls, such as paper with a Winnie the Pooh design. If older children are also on your Christmas present list, select another roll that will appeal to both boys and girls in the older age group.

You can even make your own wrapping paper to reduce costs. Buy a large roll of inexpensive brown paper and draw, paint or stamp Christmas designs all over it. This is an activity that your children will love participating in, so you should have the roll decorated fairly quickly.

Save money on tags and cards by making your own. A good way of making tags is to use decorative edge scissors to cut out individual Christmas pictures from old Christmas cards. Just make a small hole in the top of the picture with a needle, pull through a small length of colored thread, tie it together with a small knot, and you have a homemade tag.

New Christmas cards can also be easily made by using pictures cut out from old Christmas cards and adding stickers, ribbons and anything else you can think of. The only materials you have to buy are card blanks and envelopes but these are usually a lot less expensive than manufactured Christmas cards, especially if you buy in bulk or on eBay.

Save on Christmas Food and Drink

Stocking up on food and drink for the festive season can be very expensive, especially if you are hosting several parties or if you have a large extended family who all visit at Christmas.

The best way of keeping to a budget is to make a list of everything you need before you start shopping. You'll be less likely to purchase too much. In fact, the best time to write a Christmas food and drink shopping list is the previous year. When the festivities are still fresh in your mind, you will remember if you had insufficient supplies of white wine and too much cranberry jelly, for example.

If possible, begin your Christmas food and drink shopping well in advance. Buy non-perishable items, such as canned foods and wine, months in advance and put them away in a special cupboard or store room. This enables you to spread the high cost of the shopping over several months or even over the whole year and your December expenses will not be so high.

Buy as many supermarket own label goods as possible. In most cases, you will be buying a similar product to a branded one but without the fancy label. This is a very good way of reducing Christmas expenditure without reducing the overall amount of food that you buy and, once the food has been prepared, no one will be able to tell the difference.

Following these tips will not only ensure that you and your family and friends have a very merry Christmas, but also that your January statements will show much healthier balances.