There are two philosophies when it comes to spending money at Christmas time. On one side are the frugal, minimalist, holidays-on-a-dime people, and on the other end, the shop-happy, spend-all spend-merrily types. This is the one time of the year that by all appearances, I join the madness and abandon my simple, frugal ways.
I’ve found that spending less and taking a minimalist approach during the Christmas season isn’t always the best long term frugal strategy, though. Instead of saving money during the holidays, I often spend more than usual. Way more, actually. It’s not just on gifts either, but I’m flinging money around at a madcap pace.
In the past, I was happy to find butter, chocolate chips, and baking supplies on sale and appreciated my one-time bargain. It meant that my holiday baking would be cheaper. But then one year I realized that I could take advantage of all these bargains. Instead of buying just the butter I need for the week plus an extra few pounds for my Christmas baking, I learned to buy enough butter to store it in the freezer so I won’t have to buy any for months. And as for chocolate chips, why not buy enough to last most of the year while they’re almost half the price? It was a light bulb moment for my dimly lit self. I mean, why not? If space allows, it’s not as if bags of powdered sugar are going to spoil (ever).
~A Note on Expiration Dates~
You can still stock up on items that don’t have a long shelf life. Provided you have the space, check expiration dates. If you can find a really good price on a perishable item, see how many you can buy that you will use before the expiration date. Sour cream, cream cheese, and block cheese are a few of the foods that I stock up on and tuck into the back of the refrigerator to use in future weeks.
Gift cards make good gifts but I also buy them for me. I also like to buy gift cards at local businesses that offer a bonus. Restaurants frequently include a free meal with a gift card purchase. As long as I’ll eat there next year anyway, why not pay for it now and get a little extra with it? And those online companies that give you a bonus when you load a gift card? Whether or not you give the cards as gifts you can load one for yourself to use throughout the year.
Keep a lookout for other things that are cheaper during the holidays. While most items are undeniably Christmas-themed, you can often find neutral wrapping paper, dish towels, and other items suitable for the rest of the year. As little interest as I have in post-Christmas sales, the bargains are fabulous so I often go to a couple if my schedule allows.
I haven’t always been able to take advantage of all the holiday sales, especially at first. It took me a year or two to modify my spending patterns so I had enough extra money to allow for a large stock-up. In spite of how you may feel during your intentional shopping spree, if you’re buying things you regularly use, you’re probably not spending more overall. You’d be buying groceries in January, February, and beyond anyway, so you’re just spending money earlier AND you can be confident that you’ll be buying them at lower prices than you will after the new year.
And then comes January. The little extra planning and shopping in December gives me a head start on simplifying my life for the rest of the year. And if there’s anything I can do to avoid having to leave my cozy home in January, I’m happy to do it.