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Christmas holidays are filled with joy, excitement and stress even during normal times.  Add in the COVID19 pandemic and stress levels really start to soar.  Many people are still not able to work or are on modified work situations.  Small businesses are suffering across the country and it looks like most of us will not have the opportunity to gather with our loved ones for a special meal this year and this can cause all kinds of emotions.  Let’s at least ease some of your holiday financial stress with these tips for simple holiday savings.

  1. Plan your meals in advance and shop sales. Holiday entertaining is an essential part of the Christmas season, though it may look very different this year.  Even though we may not have the same scale of holiday gatherings, baking and cooking special meals will still be part of our celebrations.  Taking some time out to plan how many meals you will host, how much baking you’d like to do and how many hostess gifts you may need can save you a lot of time and money.  Once you have a list of the food you will need, make room in your fridge and freezer.  Start shopping flyers, online sales and special offers throughout the month of December and maybe even the end of November.  This spreads out your output of money and allows you to stretch every dollar. 

  1. DIY gifting. Honestly, some of the best and most treasured gifts are home made.  Most mom’s have a drawer full of their kids’ hand made gifts and as adults, we sure appreciate the work and talent of a home-made gift.  Start with your natural talents; are you a good baker? Do you make jewelry or other crafts? What are some of your hobbies?  If all else fails, there are tons of resources online for inspiration.  This is meant to be a cost saving strategy so be sure to pace yourself with online inspiration and really focus on spending less on a DIY gift than you would if you were to buy a store bought gift. Another really amazing and thoughtful gift is the gift of time.  Can you help someone with a project or drive someone to an appointment? Can you house sit/pet sit or help with other tasks or chores? Are you gifted with the ability to give someone a relaxing massage or a beauty break or can you make someone a meal and clean their kitchen?  The possibilities for time gifts are endless and time is the only non-renewable resource we have and crave.

  1. Online shopping Tips. Online shopping has become the main way we shop during this pandemic and is likely not going away.  It can very easily become a slippery slope with the intelligent marketing all online shopping sites have now to send you special offers, reminders and nudges for items you have previously viewed.  Online shopping, just like in person shopping has its pros and cons.  Here are some simple tips to keep in mind with your online shopping:
    1. Know the refund/exchange policies and save your receipts, sometimes you can take advantage of the price drop in January
    2. Look for and be sure to use all coupon and promo codes
    3. Watch out for offers that could have you overspending
    4. Clear your cookies and history for browser security
    5. Be sure to check your credit card or online banking statements regularly to watch for any errors or fraudulent charges
    6. Know your credit card billing cycle and spread your shopping over 2 cycles if you can
    7. Have a separate email account for your online shopping emails

  1. Barter. Do you have a side hustle? Are you creative? Do you have things in your home you are no longer using that could be of value to others?  Is there a service you are willing to provide to others? Bartering is a great way to get those holiday décor and gifts at a fraction of the cost.  There are several official barter websites but start with the people you personally know.  Who do you buy a product of service from? What can you offer them which would be of value to them and be a similar price point to what you buy from them?  Now, just ask.  ‘I love to support local business; times are tight, and I was wondering if you’d be open to bartering for your products or your services?”  The worst that can happen is they will say no.  Then you can either find another provider that is willing to barter or try with the next company that you support and keep going.  Bartering for services or products can be a great cost saver, especially for the holidays.  The key with bartering is that both parties must get similar value from one another. 

  1. Set one financial goal for 2021 and start a small, consistent saving plan now as a gift to yourself.  Many banks allow you to open several savings accounts for free and set up an automatic monthly withdrawal to those accounts.  Spread the cost of Christmas time gifts, meals, hostess gifts etc. over the entire year, divide the total you want to spend by 12 and put that portion into your savings account, automatically each and every month.  You can do the same with your travel fund (though travel is very local at the moment) and other large purchases you want to make.  Then, come October next year you will have such peace of mind, knowing you have the cash saved up to pay for all your holiday gifts and activities without getting further into debt.  Imagine a January where you are not feeling blue from the overwhelming Christmas bills!  That would bring hope, peace and happiness to start a fresh year vs stress, worry and fear.  Give yourself the best gift ever this year, the gift of a debt free January! 
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