How to save money during the holidays
Parties are always expensive, but there are ways to reduce the financial burden.
With rising inflation, rising interest rates and skyrocketing gas and food prices, there is plenty of incentive to save this year.
With a little research and planning, and maybe doing things a little differently, you can save money this holiday season on travel, gifts, activities and groceries.
Another year is coming to an end (well, almost). There is no denying that 2022 has been a difficult year. A lingering pandemic, rising interest rates, global supply chain issues, and high gas and food prices due to inflation. This year has been a costly year for many.
And now we are heading into one of the most expensive times of the year. Traditionally, holiday parties can be expensive. Indeed, it takes extra money to cover travel to see family, buy gifts and organize or participate in festivities.
The pressure can be high to do or buy certain things, but holiday spending should never put you in financial difficulty. Below are five ways to save money while on vacation.
Save money on travel
Because your family members are dispersed, you may need to travel during the holidays. The usual travel options this year are both expensive: plane tickets are expensive, gas is expensive. So what to do?
Start by researching whether flying or driving is cheaper. If you’re flying, consider the cost of public transit or a taxi to the airport, the food you might buy at the airport, everything adds up. Likewise, if you’re driving, calculate the number of miles, check gas prices, add food or accommodation along the way, and see what’s best for you.
If you’re flying or need to rent a car, you can ensure you get the best prices by setting up booking alerts on websites and apps like Kayak, Expedia, and Google Flights. Set alerts for specific dates, routes and destinations. Sites will send you notifications when prices drop, so you know you’re getting a better deal.
You can also consider taking the train or bus. Although they are longer, the money you save may be worth sacrificing for a slower journey. And while we all want to be together during the big holidays, if it’s in your interest to get together in January rather than December, travel prices often drop dramatically after the holiday season.
Finally, use your points! If you have a credit card that has earned you points, including airline miles, now might be the time to use them. Find out about your points and see if you can redeem them for holiday plane tickets. You can also use your points for online purchases and gift cards to reduce gift-related spending.
Save money on gifts
The holidays shouldn’t be all about expensive gifts. It’s not really the spirit of the season. There are many ways to give wonderful, thoughtful, and creative gifts that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be appreciated.
To save money, set spending limits for family and friends so no one goes overboard. Or, to avoid buying one or more presents for everyone, you can do Secret Santa or the White Elephant, where everyone buys a present for someone else for an agreed amount. So everyone gets something and you can enjoy the game elements of the experience.
Homemade gifts are another way to save money. Bake cookies, knit something, make candles or art, print photos and create a collage, or do something else that you know your loved ones will enjoy. Services can also be fantastic gifts. Consider giving help as a gift. Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews so your siblings can take a break, build or fix something for your friends, or do the housework and errands for your grandparents. Prepare vouchers that they can redeem for your services.
And make sure you reduce, recycle and reuse too. Got a great book that you think someone will love? Give it again and add a beautiful inscription. An old retro hockey jersey that you no longer wear? Your niece or nephew might love it. Cards and wrapping paper can also be a significant expense. Save money by taking care of your own packing with paper, boxes, paper bags and used wrapping paper that you may have put aside during the year. Another great inexpensive (or free) idea is virtual greeting cards.
Save money on activities
Holiday activities, events and celebrations can seem a little less joyful if they almost bankrupt you. Vendors and reception venues often charge extra during holidays. But if you do your research and choose wisely, there’s a lot of joy in free or cheap activities everywhere. Remember to always pack snacks and drinks from home to avoid the temptation to buy overpriced products.
From November to the end of December, many Christmas-themed attractions, markets, events and attractions appear in cities and towns across Canada. Some can be expensive, but many are spectacular and cheap, or even free! They can be a great way to spend time with family and friends without blowing the budget.
Many big cities, and a few small ones too, run guided tours with thousands of twinkling lights and elaborate decorations, which are usually free. In Vancouver, for example, the Lights at Lafarge Lake has more than 100,000 Christmas lights hanging in the park. The Calgary Lions Festival of Lights boasts 1 million lights! In Halifax, Evergreen Bright is an outdoor pedestrian path made up of lights and storefronts. In Toronto, the Distillery Winter Market features awe-inspiring decorations as well as a 15-metre Christmas tree designed by Dior (free admission daytime and some nights) and The Junction neighborhood window tour features 40 real-life works of art increased.
For a special cross-Canada activity, get the group together and check out the CP Holiday Train once a year. This festive, illuminated freight train travels from eastern Quebec to the coast of British Columbia in the west, from November 27 to December 18. You can follow its progress as it crosses the country to the west. Find a spot to watch it go by, or attend one of over 100 free concerts that will take place along its route. At these concerts, CP invites people to make cash or non-perishable food donations, which will be donated to food banks.
With a little creativity and planning, you can create new traditions, have fun, and save money by staying home.
Holiday decorating doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Turn decorating into a holiday tradition, with DIY activities for the whole family. Christmas trees can be very expensive. Really very expensive. There are cute and fun alternatives you can make at home, like driftwood trees, wall hangings, plywood cutouts, and more. These objects can be particularly interesting for children if they participate in the making of the decorations. Make your front door wreath from cut branches, twigs, scraps, or balls, instead of buying one. And add color and texture to your home by making yarn pom pom chains or cutting out paper in the shape of snowflakes.
Save money while shopping
Inflation has driven up the prices of almost everything. Some luxury ingredients may be difficult to finance this year. There are, however, some great options to help keep the cost of your holiday meals down.
Turkey is expensive, especially this year. Rather than buying a huge fowl which, let’s be honest, is usually too much food, go for a smaller whole turkey. Otherwise, buy just a turkey breast, or substitute it with a less expensive meat like chicken or ham, or even opt for a meatless dish. Opt for less expensive side vegetables to flesh out the meal. And use a portion calculator to figure out how much food to make so you don’t go over your budget management. You can also organize a potluck with your family and friends, in order to share the financial burden. And the good thing about a potluck is that no one will be stuck in the kitchen all day and everyone can spend more time enjoying each other’s company.
It’s important to always maximize your savings at grocery stores. Most major grocery stores have points programs, so you need to be registered and accumulate points that you can redeem for discounts on your purchases. Check out apps and sites like Flipp and Red Flag Deals, which offer coupons and codes for better savings on groceries. And plan ahead: if it’s cheaper to buy now and freeze, it may be a smart choice.
Save using cash or a prepaid card
A great way to track your spending and make sure you’re not overspending is to spend cash only (or a cash alternative, like a prepaid card). The trick is to set aside only the amount of money you are going to spend. Once that money is spent, your shopping is complete.
Although it is quite easy to withdraw cash, there are drawbacks. Cash isn’t necessarily safe (imagine losing your Christmas money before you’ve done all your basic shopping!) and with cash you can’t shop online . A rechargeable prepaid card is a good alternative. It behaves like cash, in that you can only spend what you have made available, but it is safer and you can use it to shop online.
With the KOHO Prepaid Mastercard, you only spend the money you add to it, so you can’t overspend and you can’t go into debt. With a KOHO Prepaid Mastercard, you get 1% cash back on groceries, bills and services and up to 10% cash back at partners. Additionally, there are no monthly fees or minimum balance required on your account.
Final thoughts on how to save money over the holidays
It’s a cliché to say, “Make a list and double-check it.” But, to help you reduce your expenses, you really need to make a list. And you need to check it regularly, not just twice. If you don’t stick to your plans, expenses can get away from you. Set a budget by indicating how much you want to spend on gifts per person, groceries, decorations, travel and entertainment. Stick to that budget.
Using these holiday money-saving tips can take some of the financial stress away. Spend wisely, make memories with family and friends, and enjoy the holidays debt-free.