Money-Saving Tips for Holiday Preparations

Most families are watching their pennies these days, but it can be hard to stick to a budget during the holidays without seeming like a Grinch. The giving of gifts isn’t the only major expense that appears during the holiday season. It’s also the little expenses from entertaining, running errands and decorating your home that can add up. Enjoy the holidays and reduce your financial stress by keeping these money-saving tips in mind.

Turn down the wattage

Decorating your house inside and out with twinkling lights will increase your electric bill, and the more lights you use, the higher the charge. But you don’t need to be a scrooge and stop decorating just to cut costs. The smaller the lights, the fewer watts they require, costing you less. Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are an efficient choice. Be sure to turn the lights off overnight to further reduce your cost.

Combine cooking chores

It just wouldn’t be the holidays without homemade cookies and special family meals, but all of that extra cooking will increase your electric expenses. To reduce costs, try to cook several things at one time in the oven, or at least cook separate dishes back to back when it won’t take as long for the oven to warm up. For small dishes, use a toaster oven to reduce the cost of heating a large oven. When you’re done baking, turn the oven off and leave the door open to help heat a chilly house during the winter months.

Keep ingredients simple

Along with holiday baking and cooking comes the added expense of specialty ingredients as well as the cost of buying larger quantities of sugar, flour, butter, etc. Be sure to stock up on staples when they go on sale, which is frequently during the holiday season. Also, try to pick recipes that don’t call for several ingredients that aren’t already in your cupboard.

Likewise, people trying to save money on gifts may decide to make homemade cookies, jams, etc., to give. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of making food items can quickly add up if you need to purchase extra items. Pick simple foodstuffs that don’t require costly ingredients, such as chocolates or spices, and keep in mind that time is just as valuable as money. So if you’re slaving in the kitchen for a week, the savings might not be as great as the cost.

Watch the postage meter

At the current postage rates, just 10 cards will cost you more than $4 to mail, not including the purchase price of the cards. If you have a large family or many friends, the costs can quickly add up. Consider postcards, which require less postage, or e-mail greetings to friends and family. You can also hand deliver cards to coworkers, friends and family for a special touch.

Sending gifts can also be expensive. A box of presents can cost $20 or more in postage alone. Pay attention to the weight and size of gift items that you purchase to send to loved ones. Sometimes it might be more cost conscious to mail a gift card and pocket the savings of postage.

Consider clothing costs

With office parties and holiday gatherings, you might find yourself dressing up more during the holidays. If you buy additional clothes or accessories, your holiday costs will definitely increase. And if you need to dry clean any of the fancier clothes you might wear, remember to set aside cleaning costs in your holiday budget. Cut down on driving If you drive around the Triangle searching for the perfect gifts, picking up decorating supplies, or buying ingredients at the supermarket, you’re going to spend extra money on gas. Try to consolidate your errands or shop online.

Put on a sweater

Along with the holidays comes chillier weather, and heating costs can eat up a portion of your family budget. Keep your thermostat set low, put on a sweater, and enjoy the extra savings from a reduced heating bill.

Kimberly Button is a freelance journalist and author of “The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook.”

Categories: Finance, Money