Christmas is my favorite time of year. I’m one of those weird people that actually looks forward to it all year long. Christmas is a chance to enjoy the company of loved ones, share special gifts, and remember the birth of our Savior.
This past Christmas we got to enjoy everything even more because we had a new baby! I started to realize that this holiday was becoming even more special in my heart.
However, there is one big cloud that hangs over Christmas… the SPENDING.
Depending on the size of your family, who you celebrate with, and the types of gifts that are expected or regularly given – you can get yourself into a pretty big mountain of debt by the time January 1 rolls around.
However, I’ve figured out a way to put that magic back into Christmas and enjoy that time of year without the awful DEBT.
Starting in early spring, (the earlier you start, the better!) I gather money and gift cards for Christmas. Little by little my “Christmas jar” grows and by the time the sales come around in November, I am ready to shop! This takes a huge amount of pressure off our budget and we end up having “normal” expenses in December, which is unheard of for most!
And more importantly, we have no debt to pay off.
Here is what I’m doing to save for Christmas in July:
1. I Stock Up on Target Gift Cards Through Sales
Target regularly has sales that give X amount on a target gift card for buying so many items. Through my favorite coupon site Passion for Savings, I stock up on household items and take advantage of these offers and combine them with coupons. I walk away with lots of Target gift cards. Of course I could turn these gift cards right around and use them on more household items, but I just throw them in the Christmas jar – painless and easy savings! Target has awesome deals around the holidays and they typically have all the gifts I want to give to family and friends, so it is a no-brainer to stock up on their gift cards.
2. Left-Over Costco Cash Goes in the Jar
The main reason I use cash is for buying things at Costco. Some people like to use cash regularly to buy every-day purchases. If that’s you, then saving your extra cash should be pretty easy! If I take a trip to Costco and bring $100 but only spend $85, the remaining $15 goes in the jar. This is just a mindless way I can keep saving without really even thinking about it.
3. I Buy Wrapping Paper When I See A Sale
Really the best time to buy Christmas wrapping paper is in January when stores are trying to get rid of it. But if you can’t swing it in January, you might as well pick some up when you see a great sale throughout the year. Last year I wrapped my presents in butcher paper and tied them with Christmas yarn. The butcher paper goes on sale throughout the year at craft stores and the yarn was bought at a Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon – great deals and I end up spending pennies on wrapping.
4. I Never Buy Gift Cards At Full Price
I always have a few people on my list that I will gift gift cards to – or at least I know I’ll buy them something at a particular store. Because of this, I find ways to buy them gift cards without paying the full price for them. Some examples of this are (1) CVS offers Extra Care Bucks on purchases of gift cards (basically free money to use in their store) (2) Costco has two $50 gift cards priced at $79 (3) Ralph’s has had coupons for $10 off $50 gift cards
5. I Cash in Credit Card Rewards for Gift Cards
Believe it or not, there IS a responsible way to use credit cards to your advantage. It’s pretty simple, you just PAY OFF THE FULL AMOUNT every single month. No carrying a balance, no minimum payment – the full thing. Every single month. Once you start using credit cards in this way you can still enjoy the rewards and benefits without the interest! It’s a win-win. We currently have 3 cash-back rewards credit cards and we use them all for different things. What I do from time to time is I will use our cash back bonus to get a gift card – usually to somewhere like Amazon. So at the end of every billing period, I check our rewards balance, make the full payment, and request a gift card – super easy!
6. I Cleaned Out Clutter & Found Gift Cards
Ok so this one won’t necessarily work for everyone, but it worked for me! And maybe you have a few gift cards laying around that could be located too. I spent some time going through any old bags, purses, papers & files, and ended up finding some old gift cards that still have good value. Never underestimate a deep clean!
7. I Pay Attention to Requests All Year Long
Have you ever ended up giving someone a gift you knew they didn’t necessarily want or need, but you just gave it to them anyway? I hate it when this happens! So all year long I pay attention to the requests of family members, and I have a little note in my phone for “Christmas gifts” (although I usually disguise it under a different alias). This gives me the chance to order the gift throughout the year and stash it for Christmas. Simply buying a gift earlier in the year will alleviate your spending come December. The more you space it out, the easier it is on your budget.
Total Saved So Far: $150 in cash & gift cards
Put some of these tips into practice and I promise you will feel that Christmas spirit all year long!
Erika from the Faithful with Finances Team