Manage Your Money and Time Better
It’s supposed to be a time of year filled with celebration and merriment, but who among us doesn't dread some aspect of the holidays? From gift shopping to parties and dinner with the in-laws, the holiday season can be a mountain of stress.
But it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways to better manage your time and money amid the festivities.
[Editor's note: This was originally published November 11, 2014.]
Do Only What Matters
Endless Paperless Post invites? At some point you need to draw the line and commit only to the events you really want to attend. Between cab rides/gas fill-ups, hostess gifts and party outfits, you’re left with little money — and time — to spend on your own holiday gifts and food.
Instead, be choosy. Take some time this month (30 focused minutes will do) to think about what you would like to make part of your holiday season, says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think and I Know How She Does It.
What sort of traditions would you like to establish or uphold? What activities can you do without? Ask friends and family this question, as well, she says. “Then you can start blocking these activities into your calendar. If the neighborhood party is a highlight, but no one really cares about putting lights on the roof, that's good to know. You can strike the latter from your list.”
Invite Your Guests to Pitch In
If you’re taking on the role of host this holiday, don’t assume you have to execute all the cooking, décor, and merriment on your own. Designate “fun” chores to your guests during the party, like trimming the tree and decorating the cookies.
It’s fun for family to get involved, and it ensures you can actually enjoy your own dang party. Get the kids working, too. You could even make it a contest and award small prizes to the little one who set the table fastest or decorated the coolest gingerbread cookie.
Ditch the Crowds
I don’t need to tell you why online shopping is more convenient than hitting the mall. Especially during the holidays, it saves you time in line and gas from driving around town trying to locate the last pair of pink Uggs in your daughter’s miniature shoe size.
And while you’re shopping from home, subscribe to receive emails from your favorite sites for added savings. “Many times stores, boutiques, and online shops will offer special and exclusive deals to their subscribers,” says Audrey McClelland, co-founder of Mom Generations. “A 20-percent-off coupon, free shipping or a discount code goes a long way during the holiday shopping period.”
Always Opt for Store Wrapping
For the few items you do end up buying in stores, never leave without asking for at least a couple of gift boxes or bags and tissue paper. Some stores will even wrap the gift for you at no extra charge.
It may be a pain to wait the extra 10 minutes to watch your mother-in-law’s cashmere sweater get meticulously wrapped, but you’ll be happy you did once December 24 rolls around and you don’t have to make a mad dash to the drugstore to buy overpriced rolls of wrapping paper (plus tape and ribbon).
Have a Go-To Gift
For coworkers, as well as some relatives and friends, it helps to stock up on one type of inexpensive — but great — gift. Last year, I gave out boxes of cake bites ordered from The Sweet Tooth Fairy. They were such a hit that I’m pretty sure they’re making an encore this year.
And if you decide all your gifts will come from a major retailer like Costco (for high-quality, inexpensive wines) or Amazon (for a book you think friends will heart), save by paying with discounted gift cards purchased at sites like Cardpool, GiftCardGranny, and GiftCardRescue. The discounts can be as high as 35 percent. “The savings can add up if you have a lot to buy,” says Zina Kumok, who runs the personal finance blog Debt Free in Three.
Farnoosh Torabi is an award-winning financial journalist and author of the new best-selling book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. Earn the chance to win a free signed copy when you join her online community.