While the holiday season often means spending quality time with loved ones and relaxing after a hectic year, it’s also a month that can be filled with stress and worry. Why? It comes down to one word: money.
Yes, budgeting around the holidays is always a bit of a struggle, as you figure what gifts to buy for your parents, brothers, sisters, friends, and so on and how much to budget for said gifts. But it’s important to note that it’s not just the gifts that can cost you extra money this time of year—it’s all the other stuff that comes with celebrating and embracing the season. From wrapping and shipping to flying home with gifts, here are five ways to save money this year on hidden holiday expenses.
Wrapping paper, ribbons, gift tags, gift bags… yep, it’s not just the gift itself that gets expensive. To save money, hit up your local dollar store for all the wrapping goods. (Pro tip — you’re more likely to save on bags and tissue paper than wrapping paper, which is usually a smaller portion that could net out to the same price for a full roll elsewhere.) To save even more money (and help the environment), make the wrapping part of the gift. Giving homemade sweets or even kitchen items? Consider wrapping them in a cute dishtowel. Making the season merry and bright with wine? Put it in a canvas wine bag that they’ll be able to use again and again. If you’re really looking to save cash, give your gifts a nostalgic throwback feel by going old school and wrapping them in newspaper.
Holiday parties and shindigs all weigh heavily on the budget—from food to fashion. Buying for many parties? Save buying in bulk from Boxed, the online version of a warehouse store (and without any membership payment and free shipping on your first order). Need crackers for parties or flour and pantry items for baking? Try Brandless, where all items are $3. To save money on everything but especially perishables, like cheese for that cheese plate, it’s a no brainer — you need to search for coupons. SnipSnap and Checkout 51 are great apps to use.
Really jonesing for a new outfit? Download Honey and MyPoints before hitting up your favorite online retailer. Honey searches for any discount or promo codes that are applicable for any online purchase, and MyPoints gives you points for your purchases at different retailers, which you can then redeem for gift cards. Lastly, ThredUp is also great for nabbing secondhand clothes (many with tags!) at truly insane prices.
Sending holiday cards, while special, can end up being a money suck. Save the cash and send cute e-cards to loved ones, which you can find at Paperless Post. (E-cards have come a long way, and chic ones can be found!)
While some may prefer to transport gifts home in luggage, you’ll always run the risk of going over in luggage weight and having to pay a fee. (On top of the checked baggage fee you’ll have.) Skip the craziness and ship the gifts. You can compare prices at Online Shipping Calculator, but in general if you ship early enough, the good ol’ USPS is probably your easiest (and cheapest) bet.
One of the biggest things that people forget is that it’s nice — and customary — to give a token of appreciation to those who you interact with on a regular basis. This includes doormen and supers (if you live in an apartment), your mail carrier (if you’re friendly), your regular hairdresser (should you have one), your regular babysitter… you get the gist. But while that can be seriously expensive, it doesn’t have to be. For one, this is a good time to use up those credit card (like Chase Ultimate Rewards) or MyPoints points to redeem for gift cards, which you can use as your tip. You can also just gift a small (and economical) gift like handmade cookies (though for your apartment workers cash is preferred). Tip: The US Postal Service actually doesn’t allow mail carriers to accept any cash, but gift cards or gifts worth up to $20 are okay. Then, give yourself a reminder to add to the budget for next year.
More holiday budgeting tips: