If this is your first holiday season together as a married couple, and you’re still learning how to budget as a household for this time of year, know that there are many ways enjoy the season without breaking the bank. Here are a few ways my husband, James, and I are planning to celebrate while sticking to our budget.
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1. Scale Back the Date Nights
It’s likely that you will be seeing friends coming into town, going to dinners with your families and have holiday parties. Treat these occasions as date night. As newlyweds you may still be in the phase where family and friends treat you. Rejoice!
Trimming the tree can be an in-the-house date night too — don’t undervalue “in-house” experiences.
2. Hold Back on Buying New Items That Aren’t Gifts
Even though I really want to buy Christmas stockings and decorations, I’m not going to. My husband and I live in a small apartment and not many people would even be able to enjoy our holiday cheer. Instead, I will be buying a few items after Christmas, when they’re 50-70% off.
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3. Give the Gift of Satisfying a Need
Of course, we want to give the fun stuff. A lot of that is novelty, though. At the newlywed stage in our lives, we still have needs, like a space heater and a down comforter! Do I want things like Chromecast, tickets to the Atlanta Ballet and a pretty watch? Oh, absolutely. Perhaps there is room in your budget for both. Save money together by gifting needs before wants, and be honest when others ask what you want. It’s OK to ask your parents for a down comforter. (Especially the ones who keep asking about grandbabies.)
4. Shop Online
James saved almost 50% off the in-store price for my gift, just by taking the time to search deals online. He probably spent the same (or less) time as in-store shopping. The same was true for me. Also, shopping online eliminates the distractions of unbudgeted purchases. It’s tempting to pick up something for yourself, or even something extra to go along with your intended gift.
5. Make the Most of Free & Inexpensive Holiday Treats
We live one mile from a cute downtown area which is now covered in lights, tinsel and holiday cheer. We can turn a long dog walk into a cozy mini-date by walking to the coffee shop, sipping something warm and taking a stroll through the decorations. You can even cut the coffee cost out by making your own hot chocolate.
6. Plan in Advance & Shift Your Budget
This is a season where more money is spent, whether it is on plane tickets to see family, gifts or snow tires. You can anticipate some of these needs and put money toward these areas in advance. For example, my husband is a groomsman in a wedding right before the holidays in Minnesota. We honestly cannot afford for me to go as well, which is sad, but it’s a sacrifice we’re making. We bought his ticket in October so that it wouldn’t be an expense along with Christmas. When you can’t plan in advance as much as you would like to, shift money from one area to another. For example, our budget includes a clothing allowance. Instead of buying new clothes we used that money for gifts and miscellaneous holiday expenses, like extra gas. We also took away some from date nights, because between family and friends, we have a lot of fun parties and dinners to go to.
7. Remember: If You Can’t Afford It, You Can’t Afford It
Resist the temptation to use your credit card for a big ticket item you cannot actually afford right now. Spending money that you don’t have can lead to debt that lingers far into the next year. (This calculator can tell you how long it would take you to pay off those credit card purchases, which can help you plan, or can motivate you avoid overspending to begin with.) Be consoled in knowing that many items will be on sale soon after the holidays!
Image courtesy of Maggie Perkins
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
A recent graduate of Georgia College in Milledgeville, Maggie Perkins is a newlywed living on a small scale farm in Lilburn, GA. She's working towards balancing student loan payments and new household expenses all while keeping up with work, "pre-marriage" friends and our ever changing lives. Her desire to complete the Tough Mudder conflicts with her love of Nutella and watching House of Cards on Netflix.