To say that this time of year is when consumers let their spending get out of hand the most is probably an understatement.
For many retailers, more than 30 percent of total annual sales happen in December, according to Forbes. What’s more, the National Retail Federation says Americans consumers plan to spend on average $935 during the holiday shopping season this year.
With those numbers, the idea of celebrating low-cost holidays seems pretty unlikely. However, you do have the power to combat overspending and stay within budget.
Here are a few common ways you may be wasting your money around the holidays and some cheaper alternatives to help you save — not spend — your hard-earned cash.
How to celebrate low-cost holidays
1. Avoid elaborate holiday decorations
Your goal may be to win the best-decorated house in the neighborhood this year. But how much money are you truly wasting on lights, ornaments, inflatable nativity scenes, and trees decked out to the nines?
Even other elaborate displays, like floral and centerpiece arrangements, can set you back big time. In 2014, Americans spent more than $53 on holiday decorations.
Try this alternative.
Skip buying new Christmas decorations this year and don’t worry about outdoing the neighbors. Try reusing existing lights, tinsel, and ornaments in new, creative ways and celebrate Christmas on a budget.
Shop around for artificial flower arrangements that look and feel authentic but can be reused when needed to decorate your home interior. This will save you money since you won’t be buying fresh flowers each holiday.
And, if you have outdoor floral displays, mix in some greenery from your own backyard.
2. Don’t buy overpriced wrapping paper
The wrapping paper is usually the first thing you notice when a gift is handed to you. The ornate, colorful designs or surface textures of wrapping paper can make opening a gift even more fun.
Although a gift’s wrapping paper makes a big impression on the recipient, for the gift giver it can be a big money waster. Especially when it is just torn up and discarded in a matter of seconds.
For example, a roll of specialty wrapping paper at gift store Papyrus can cost between $4.95 and $11.95. And once a gift is unwrapped, it’s unlikely that wrapping paper can ever be used again.
Try this alternative.
Inexpensive gift bags are a simple alternative since the gift can be obscured in the bag with some tissue paper. And the bag, if folded up nicely, can be reused for next year. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.
Or, use a few pieces of tissue paper to wrap a gift instead. Throw in some bows or ribbons for extra decoration.
And, if you’re wrapping presents for other family members, make it a project for the kids to get involved in. Wrap presents with cardboard or construction paper and let the kids put their own personalized decorations on them using crayons or paint.
If all else fails, newspaper as wrapping paper will do the trick, too.
3. Steer clear of new holiday clothes
Clothes shopping can drain your budget no matter what time of year it is. But when you’re buying something for one day or one occasion, the benefits aren’t always worth the cost.
You might make an excuse to buy that expensive dress or tailored suit just for one family photo, but then it’s relegated to the closet forever. And no matter how much of a discount you get on festive Christmas sweaters, you can’t really wear them after the holidays.
Try this alternative.
Wear simple items you already own that you can mix and match. Accessorize a basic black dress with some holiday pins, or use an existing suit jacket with a more festive tie and shirt.
It’s definitely possible to put a new spin on items you already own in your wardrobe. And if you do shop for new clothes, seek out pieces that stand the test of the time. That way you can wear them again on future holidays while staying in style.
4. Outsmart shipping costs
Expensive shipping costs aren’t just the bane of the last-minute gift shopper.
Depending on the nature and fragility of the item, you may need to buy insurance or pay extra for certified delivery. And, if you’re not a fan of the U.S. Postal Service, you’ll most likely fork over extra money for UPS or FedEx to deliver your gifts.
If you do the math on how many gifts you need to ship out and the costs attached, you may find you’re almost better off delivering the gifts yourself.
Try this alternative.
Get your shopping done early and avoid paying extra in next-day delivery fees. Or, order your gifts direct from the retailer’s website if they include free shipping when you spend a certain amount.
It may be worthwhile to look into an Amazon Prime membership, too. You get free two-day shipping and same-day shipping in select areas on millions of items.
And, having the gifts shipped directly to the recipient’s home will save you the trouble of paying to ship the gift yourself.
5. Check out discounted gift cards
The biggest mistake many people make when buying gift cards is paying full price for them at all times. Or paying for extra fees tacked onto the regular retail price for premium gift cards.
Try this alternative.
You can find cards that haven’t been spent at all, or others with some money left on them. Many or sold by users who don’t want them anymore or exchanged them for other gift cards. In many cases, you can find gift cards discounted up to 50 percent.
If you received a gift card you didn’t want, take it to one of the above sites, sell it, and buy one you do want at the best price point you can find.
Low-cost holidays are not a myth. With the right mind-set and preparation, you can celebrate the season of giving in style, without breaking the bank.
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|Lender||APR Range||Loan Amount|
|1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.
3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.
4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.
6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.
All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.16% to 35.89%. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at time of application. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% and the average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months or longer.
7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
8 Important Disclosures for Avant.
* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.
** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33
* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.
Upgrade Bank Disclosures
** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.
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