You’ve worked hard, saved, and waited all year for the wondrous holiday season. What’s not to love? It’s a magical time of year where friends and family unite and create fond memories. The mention of the holiday season brings to mind great food, travel, shopping, and priceless time spent with loved ones.
While the holiday season is the time of giving, it threatens to break the bank without some careful planning. The most common expenses during the holidays include travel, gifts, and food. Let’s take a look at some essential tips federal employees can use to save money and get the most out of the holiday season.
The Season of Giving
Although the holiday season involves shopping for the perfect gift, it doesn’t have to be brutal on your wallet. While purchasing the newest gadget for your favorite niece may seem tempting, it can be costly and significantly reduce your holiday budget. Following these four tips can help you give the perfect gift while keeping your budget intact.
- Be Practical. Have you ever spent a great deal of effort searching for the “perfect” gift, only to notice that your gift recipient put your amazing find on a shelf to collect dust? Giving useful gifts, such as household goods or a cozy blanket, saves money and offers a year-round benefit. Plus, there’s a reduced chance your present will be re-gifted.
- Add a Personal Touch. Homemade gifts, such as baked goods, art, or handmade holiday greeting cards offer a low-cost alternative to gift giving that lets your loved one know you truly put thought and effort into your gift. As a plus, making gifts yourself by recycling old materials is environmentally friendly. Your “green” friends will love the sentiment!
- Don’t Miss Post-Holiday Sales. Did you wait too long to shop for gifts? There is good news! Post-holiday sales are a great way to find gifts at deeply discounted rates. Additionally, many major retailers offer the same outstanding price cuts via their website – how easy is that?
- Shop Online. Shopping online provides the convenience of perusing your favorite stores in the comfort of your own home. Online shopping allows you to take advantage of amazing sales while saving gas, travel time, and that dreaded trip to the mall. As a bonus, many stores offer professional gift-wrapping of your items, which can then be sent directly to your recipient’s address. Will you really miss wrestling with the tape and wrapping paper this year?
Be a Smart Traveler
Traveling is often necessary during the holidays in order to spend time with the people you love. However, it is not necessary to spend all of your hard-earned savings on getting to your destination. Check out these tips for getting the most out of your travel budget.
- Book Early. If you know where and when you plan to travel, reserving your tickets early can help ensure you receive your ideal itinerary while saving your vacation budget. Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea. However, if it is unavoidable, make sure to check multiple carriers to find the best deal.
- Choose Your Travel Days Wisely. Many federal employees save up their vacation time for use during the holidays. If your travel plans are flexible, try traveling on a Tuesday or Wednesday as opposed to a Friday or Sunday. Traveling in the middle of the week can significantly save your travel budget.
- If You Have Perks, Use Them! Many credit card companies offer plans with perks and travel benefits. If you’re savvy about the credit card rewards available to you, using them during the holiday season can save help save money on transportation, dining out, and lodging.
- Bundle! If planning to travel out of town, transportation to and from your destination is not the only concern. You will also need transportation while you’re in town and a nice, convenient place to stay. Many online booking services offer travelers the chance to bundle these items, which can result in deeply discounted rates. This is definitely the way to go!
A mere mention of the holiday season can bring about fabulous memories of traditional dishes that tantalize the senses. From holiday turkeys to cakes and pies, holiday food is something everyone looks forward to. Follow these tips to make sure your holiday table is full without going into debt.
- Plan Your Menu. Are you planning to host holiday meals? Not looking forward to the pre-holiday turkey rush at the supermarket? A great way to save money and time is to plan large holiday meals in advance. By doing so, you can shop for ingredients as they go on sale and freeze the main course for later use.
- Host a Pot Luck. If you’re staying home for the holidays, hosting a holiday meal can be much less complicated (and less expensive) if everyone brings a dish. As an added benefit, the clean-up process is a lot less overwhelming as dishes don’t tend to pile up after the meal. What can be better than grandma’s famous stuffing and no dishes?
- Time to Cut Coupons. Around the holiday season, many manufacturers release coupons for common items used in special holiday meals. If you start a couple months ahead, you can often find coupons for the majority of your holiday meal needs. Make sure to check your grocery store’s coupon policy, as you may be able to double up!
- Check Online for Group-Rate Deals. If you’re not staying home for the holidays or aren’t into facing the post-holiday meal clean-up, thousands of restaurants offer deals at a group rate that can be purchased in advance. A quick search online and a little pre-planning can help reduce the price of dining out with the family by 50% or more!
The Most Important Holiday Tip
Saving money is a nice bonus, but the most important thing about the holidays is being with those you care about. Following these money-saving tips can keep your focus on the true meaning of the season. Happy saving!