Frugal Advice from Patrick J. Beaird

'Tis the Season to be Frugal!

Christmas is amazing! The commemoration of the birth of Christ long ago continues to conjure up the warmth of family gatherings, joy, giving and love. We go to great lengths to make the day perfect, from enduring long lines to spending more than we can perhaps truly afford all for the sake of our friends and family.
The problem with over spending, especially in tough economic times, is that the eventual stress and pain of debt may far surpass the initial joy of giving.

As we draw close to the big day keep these key points in mind for a frugal and perhaps more enjoyable Christmas as well as new year.

Determine a budget -- Before you decide how many people you are going to buy for, create a realistic budget and be prepared to stick to it.

Create The List -- Make a list of all those you wish to give to from family to your favorite charity. Think it through and make sure it's as complete as possible.

Divvy up your spending -- Now that you have your budget and a list of those you desire to give to, take time to decide how much of the budgeted amount you wish to spend on each person.

Prioritize and Re-evaluate -- Now that you've created your list and divvied up your budget, prioritize your list and consider reducing spending on some to boost spending on others. This will enable you to be more generous to those most special to you. It may sound cold but you may also want to consider eliminating some on your list. We sometimes feel obligated to buy for people when perhaps a card with a personal note would convey our love effectively.

Stand firm -- It may seem like there isn't enough money available to give what you would like to, but stand firm as you begin to shop. Giving in will likely result in overspending and debt, which can cause pain long after the warmth of the holiday is gone.

Be creative -- Think about making gifts or buying multi packs and splitting them up. For instance, buying a box of canning jars and several yummy bags of candy to fill the jars can create many nice gifts when wrapped with ribbon or topped with a bow.

Check the ads -- Make sure to check weekly ads for deals. Most stores have their weekly ads online and you can even sign up to get weekly sales e-mails from many stores. Take the time to bookmark weekly store ads in your web browser to make them easier to access next time.

Call ahead -- Before wasting time and gas driving to stores only to find out they are sold out, call first and don't be afraid to ask them to hold one for you.

Keep your receipts -- Make sure to place all of your receipts in a safe place, such as a well marked envelope, in case items need to be returned.

Be charitable -- Don't forget those less fortunate, your church or other worthwhile organizations. You can even make donations in your loved ones names and let them know you gave on their behalf.

Make it fun! -- Instead of going through all the stress of trying to find the perfect gift for loved ones suggest a family white elephant gift exchange for a few good laughs.

Be patient -- If you are willing to wait and perhaps take the chance that something will be sold out sometimes it pays to wait. As we enter the last 10 days before Christmas, many seasonal items are beginning to be reduced by 50% or even more.

Plan ahead -- At the conclusion of this year's shopping, make notes regarding your shopping experience such as those you gave to and what you gave. You may also include info about where you found the best deals and when you purchased them. Retain the info in a safe placec such as with your Christmas decorations, so that you will be able to find it next year.

Next Year's Budget -- Using your experiences from this year, plan accordingly for next year. This may include opening or changing a Christmas account so that the appropriate amount is automatically deposited each month in order for you to reach your goal. Make part of your goal no debt.

Next Year's Decorations -- Take some time to think about seasonal items you will need for next year such as wrapping paper, lights, ribbons and bows and pick them up after Christmas at clearance prices.

Merry Christmas!

I answer select questions and share experiences and tips through my articles. Feel free to write me at: or Patrick Beaird, P.O. Box 9203, Springfield, IL, 62791

Copyright 2008 Patrick Beaird