Holidays give us a break from the daily grind and allow us to have some fun with friends and family. It can bring us joy and excitement as we anticipate the big day. But that joy and excitement can turn into horror and anxiety when we open up our credit card statement the following month! The last thing we should do is ruin the great memories we created by being overwhelmed financially because we spent too much money.
Here are three ways to have memorable experiences during any holiday without blowing your budget:
Have the Holidays at Home
Dining out, going to the movies or going to a special event can be a real treat but it can hit your wallet hard—especially if you have kids. Celebrating at home can save you hundreds or more a year. You can make it special by cooking a delicious meal, lighting some candles and playing festive music. After dinner, put on a seasonal movie and bring out the dessert. Follow this up with board games, which can often be found at thrift stores and garage sales. If you’re having guests over, try your local dollar store for decorations and consider hosting a potluck.
Dine on a Different Day
Who says you have to celebrate the holiday only the day of? Consider going out to dinner to celebrate holidays like Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day the day after. Many restaurants charge a lot for dinners the day of. If you wait just one day, you’ll save.
My boyfriend in college and I did this. We didn’t have enough money to pay the $89 for a special Valentine’s Day dinner at our local favorite restaurant so we decided to celebrate on February 15 instead. We still had a romantic evening but ended up saving $60.
You can save on decorations and presents if you wait as well. Celebrate Christmas a few days after when you can buy a steep discount. The same goes for seasonal food such as buying pumpkin pie the day after Thanksgiving and fireworks after July 4.
It may not seem as fun if you wait but the what makes the holidays so special is spending quality time with our loved ones. It doesn’t matter about the exact date—as long as you’re together and you have fun.
Get It Going with Groupon
Don’t forget to check out discount sites like Groupon and Living Social, which can have tickets to seasonal events for up to 80% off. My friends recently snagged tickets for 20% off to a local Christmas light show. Of course, they also offer discounts for local dining should you still want to eat out on a holiday. Also, if you have a senior in your group, don’t forget to ask for a senior discount.
Dodge the Decorations
It’s fun to decorate for major holidays like Christmas and Halloween. But the spending on decor can get out of control. How much decorations do you really need? (Actually, that would be zero since no one needs decorations.) So a better question might be, how can you strike a balance of being festive without overspending? As mentioned above, you can get decorations on sale after the holidays are over but that doesn’t mean you should go crazy either. Besides it being a space issue (where can you put 10 spooky skeletons and 3 fake Christmas trees?), it’s still money you’re spending on things that aren’t a necessity.
Think of decorations as highlights instead of an onslaught of the season. A few decorations inside the house and a couple placed in the yard is plenty. You can always grab the family to go look at other people’s grandly decorated homes for a taste of overboard without it costing you other than some gas money.
Look for free holiday events in your area, too. In the city where I live, there are several free Christmas shows. I have a few Christmas decorations that I put up in early December but I save the majority of my enjoyment of the lights and other festivities for the free events. I save hundreds of dollars this way and lots of space in my closets.
These C’s of Celebrating Cut Costs
I asked a relative of mine who has thrown many parties and celebrations on a budget what her tips were and she told me the “three C’s: creativity, crafting and cooking.”
- Creativity can mean checking your own home for item you could use for decor. For example, you can take a regular picture around your house and wrap it with paper, add a bow and now you have Christmas or birthday decorations using just the cost of the paper and bow. You could also look for items around your house to compliment a theme, such as a fish bowl or tank for a Finding Nemo birthday party.
- Crafting means making things yourself, such as using ribbon and crafting paper to make your own invitations or spray painting branches or pine cones to add fun flair to your decor.
- Cooking can seem obvious but it can also be stressful to prepare. Never try out a new recipe for a special occasion. Stick to making dishes that are your specialty and don’t forget about potential allergies of guests. Also, if you have a relative who loves to cook, you could ask them if they wouldn’t mind helping out and offer them a gift card or payment in return.
Celebrate With Sense
Celebrating is a balance of sticking within your budget and making it a memorable experience. You don’t want to get the post-holiday blues by overspending. Otherwise, you’ll actually be harming your family. Debt rarely brings families closer together–and often rips them apart. With a little effort and creativity, you can have fun but not be scared like it’s Halloween when you get your credit card statement:)