Christmas is 16.5 weeks away. Hanukkah starts on Dec. 22 – exactly 16 weeks from today. And according to a variety of surveys, the average person is expected to spend about $1,000 on holiday gifts this year.
So how much money do you have saved for holiday gift buying?
If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “very little” or “nothing.” Here are seven suggestions for accumulating cash toward your holiday spending, so you can avoid a big hit to your budget in December, January, or February.
1. Make Your List And Your Budget
Decide who will be on your holiday gift list this year and how much you want to spend on each person. This is essential for two reasons – first, so you can plan the total amount of money you need for gifts, and second, so you can monitor your spending as you make purchases.
2. Start Shopping Early For Gifts
Buy one or two gifts every week between now and mid-December, especially as you see items on sale. This will allow you to stretch out both the money and the time you have to devote to gift buying – neither your budget nor your schedule will be hit all at one time.
3. Consider DIY Gifts
There are probably several people of your gift list who would really appreciate a “made at home” gift from you – for example a food item like a big batch of cranberry sauce that has an extended shelf-life and can be enjoyed long past the holiday season.
Or consider a memento of the season such as a home-made ornament that can become a collectible to be enjoyed year after year. Or how about a favorite photo or picture montage that is framed for prominent and attractive display throughout the year.
4. Put Aside A Few Dollars Every Week
If you deposit $30 every week between now and mid-December into a special bank account – or if you simply put that money into an “untouchable envelope” in your dresser – you will accumulate $480. That is cash you will have available for shopping in December and it will significantly reduce how much you charge to your credit cards.
5. Save By Skipping
What expenses can you cut back on between now and mid-December? For example, perhaps you can bring your lunches to work instead of eating out. Perhaps you can skip a few restaurant dinners in favor of meals at home with family or friends.
Spend a few minutes thinking and you’re sure to come up with several ways to spend less during the next three months – without giving up very much. You may even find your new spending patterns so comfortable that you decide to continue them into the new year!
6. Save By Selling
Yard sales can be a good source of money, but there are other options for selling things conveniently and quickly – notably, Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook’s “Sell Group.”
As you look around your home, do you see things that you no longer like or haven’t used in months, perhaps even years? This may include obvious items such as furniture, accessories, and rugs, but also remember books, CDs, DVD movies, and unused gift cards.
Don’t forget your clothes closet – things that don’t fit or that you don’t like anymore. And remember accessories, such as watches, jewelry, and purses. Also look in your garage and storage areas for automotive, gardening, exercise, and pet care items.
Perhaps you have some collections you’re ready to part with – stamps, coins, figurines, or sports cards. Consider having such items appraised, so you sell them at the right price.
7. Consider A Side Gig
This time of year offers certain holiday-related job opportunities. For example, stores, restaurants, and caterers are good places to look for part-time seasonal work.
If you know families or businesses who will be hosting holiday parties, ask about working at these events – to shop for food and decorations, to set up, to serve, and to clean up.
Or perhaps you can help certain businesses or families to put up their holiday decorations. This type of work should typically not interfere with the hours of your full-time job.
You may prefer certain “old reliable” ways to earn money on short notice – such as dog walking or pet sitting. Or consider raking and bagging fall leaves, especially as a service for homeowners who don’t have the time or the physical ability to do these chores.
A part-time job between now and the holidays can be hard on your time, but it can make your gift shopping a lot easier.
The holiday season is getting closer every day, so plan now and you won’t panic when the bills are due. Here’s wishing your family more joy and less stress!
Navin Shah is Chairman of Royal Hotel Investments, which owns and operates two hotels in Covington and one in Conyers. He is also Vice Chairman of Embassy National Bank, a community bank in Lawrenceville that he helped establish in 2007 and has become one of the leading SBA “Preferred Lenders” in the southeast. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com