For many people, Christmas is a favorite time of year. Unfortunately, it can also be the most stressful. The costs of Christmas cards, Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts can really burden one’s finances.
You might be wondering why I am talking about Christmas today when it is only July. Both of my children’s birthdays fall in July. Once their birthdays have passed I begin thinking about the next big event, which is Christmas. Giving myself some time to think, plan, and prepare helps to save money. Hopefully, this post will encourage you to think ahead and plan too so that you can also save money.
Here are some ways to save money on Christmas gifts. Another day we can discuss ways to save money on the other parts of Christmas.
1. Get help from friends and family. Let them know what you’re shopping for. When I do this, other people let me know when they spot a good deal on something I need. It goes both ways. I have been known to text pictures to people at midnight on Black Friday with deals they might be interested in. It helps to have others watching out for what you need.
2. Ask friends and family what they want. Hopefully, this will avoid countless hours shopping, racking your brain, wasted gas, extra unwanted products in the environment, and the hassle of returns.
3. Try gift cards. Some people may think this is inappropriate, but I think it’s a great solution. Gift cards save time, wrapping paper, shipping expenses, and help avoid unwanted gifts. Let the person buy what they want.
4. Save your receipts. Get an envelope for your purse or have a special file folder in your filing cabinet. You never know when you’ll have bought the wrong size or something didn’t work. It’s really upsetting to return something without a receipt and not get the full value of the item.
5. See if your store offers a gift receipt. I think it’s nice when someone includes a gift receipt in the box. This avoids the uncomfortable situation of asking where they bought it or if they still have the receipt. I’ll admit that many times I’ve been left with things I couldn’t use or return. Gift receipts are great!
6. Be specific in your requests. If someone asks what to get your child, try to be as specific as possible. Tell them the exact name of the toy or their specific pants size. Before Christmas and birthdays, I have my kids write a list of the things they really like and want. Then when family asks for gift ideas, I have something to tell them. I like to have a variety of lower priced items on the list too (such as hair bows, stickers, etc.) so that people don’t feel like they have to spend a lot. This also helps with people looking for filler items.
7. Consider drawing names with co-workers or family. We did this with my husband’s family for several years. To make it more fun, we kept the names we drew a secret and were surprised when we exchanged gifts.
8. Buy just for the children. This is becoming a common practice in our families. We buy for our parents and the children. This has really cut down on spending and getting unusable gifts. It also makes for a more relaxed Christmas.
9. Consider playing a game instead of swapping gifts. Try a white elephant or dirty Santa game. Some games involve bringing a nice gift that someone would want. Other games involve bringing a funny or prank type gift. There is usually a gift maximum price suggested, such as $10-20. With the games, each person brings one gift and each person leaves with one gift. Be prepared for lots of laughter and fun.
10. Be realistic. While you’re out there shopping, you’ll probably find loads of great deals and things you want for yourself. Be sure to budget in some money for things that you want.
11. Make a budget and stick with it. NO CHARGING! If you can only afford a $20 gift then make those dollars stretch. There are deals all around so that you can make your purchase special.
12. Take those credit cards out of your wallet. It’s much more tempting to charge something and purchase something out of your price range when the credit cards are in your wallet. You don’t need a debt hangover in January.
13. Try making homemade gifts. With the new craft items, DIY tv shows, and Pinterest, hand crafted items have made a comeback and are more desirable. Do you have a nitch? You can make note cards, pillows, crocheted hats, wreaths, and many other different things that are nice. A gift doesn’t have to be store bought.
14. Instead of individual gifts, consider a family gift. You could purchase a popcorn bowl and fill it with microwave popcorn, candy bars, and a new DVD. Perhaps you could purchase the family a season pass to the aquarium or something else they would like. The key is to think about the family and what their interests are.
15. Keep a gift closet or special place for gifts. Years ago, I used to have a gift closet. I would purchase things throughout the year and put them away for later use. Now that I no longer have a gift closet, I have gift totes. It’s not as convenient but the concept is the same. I find things throughout the year that I think people will like (on clearance or not) and put them away for Christmas. Honestly, I think it is a more thoughtful process because I am able to think ahead and consider the person that I am buying for. I am also able to pick up a few extra things for teachers, co-workers, and extended family.
16. Don’t wait until the last minute. Shopping the week before Christmas means that things will be picked over and you’ll have to choose from what’s left. You may not end up with a nice gift like you had planned, or you may have to pay more for something.
18. Give the gift of service. Instead of you and your friend exchanging gifts, consider giving a gift of service. Everyone wants to go out on a date with their husband. Many of us don’t go out though because we can’t afford to go out and to pay a sitter. Give your friend babysitting services. You could also give other services such as housecleaning, gardening, raking, etc. Perhaps you could pick a chore that she doesn’t like to do. Use your computer or art skills to make a certificate for the services you are giving.
19. Consider giving something used. I remember just a few years ago my son kept asking for Rescue Heroes. Each of the figurines were around $10 each. Finally I did some searching online and found two huge lots on ebay. I got the two lots for around $50, including shipping. Something similar happened with Polly Pockets for my daughter. She soon realized that she could only get a few Polly Pocket pieces for $15 but we found a big box with buildings, figurines, clothes, and more on Craigslist for $40. Consider the person you are buying for and decide if they would mind something used.
20. Consider regifting. Regifting doesn’t have to be tacky or thoughtless. We all get gifts we have don’t need. Hang onto those gifts and try to thoughtfully give them to someone else. Perhaps you could give them to your neighbor, mail carrier, your child’s teacher, the person that picks up your recycling, or your favorite bank teller. Regifting doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Just make sure what you are giving is considerate of what that person likes and that the gift is in good condition. Here is a post with regifting tips.
This is certainly not a complete list of ways to save on Christmas gifts. Which ways do you save?
This article was originally written by me in 2007. It has been revised and edited.
July 20, 2012
Just recently, I received a bill to renew my car insurance. I glanced at the bill and was getting ready to make a payment when I noticed something — this time there was a pay in full discount amount. I began to look over my bill more closely. Normally I pay a $3 monthly installment fee so that I can make payments for my auto insurance. Considering I don’t have to plunk out $450-600 at a time, I didn’t think the $3 per month was too bad. But when I factored in the pay in full discount, it makes a big difference.
By paying the full amount up front, I was able to get a discount of $39.90. Also, by making the full payment I avoided paying an extra $18 in monthly installment fees. This made my savings a whopping $57.90. Quite a bit a difference, don’t you think?
Here’s a few ways to save on your car insurance:
1. Ask for a pay in full discount such as the discount I received. If you can’t afford to pay the full six months, perhaps you could afford to make two payments – half up front and half later. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
2. Ask for other discounts. Some insurance companies offer discounts for military or students with good grades. Periodically we call our insurance company and ask for discounts. We have been with them for about nine years. When I call them I ask for a good driver discount. We’ve had no tickets or wrecks so we are considered safe drivers. Or you could ask them for a loyalty discount. There are all sorts of discounts available. You just need to ask.
3. Compare prices. It pays to shop around and compare prices of different companies. Be sure you’re comparing similar coverage though. It wouldn’t be a good deal to save $25 and not receive the coverage you need.
4. Ask about a higher deductible. Some financial advisers will tell you to always get a higher deductible. I would have to disagree with that one. Compare, compare, compare. We have a zero deductible and there wasn’t much difference in price. Don’t assume that it will be way cheaper to get a higher deductible, but then again, it could be. I would recommend making a list of companies you want to call and writing notes on prices for different types of coverage and deductibles and then comparing rates. An hour of your time could save you hundreds of dollars.
5. Check into a company’s reputation. With all of the online rants and reviews, it is fairly easy to research a company. Also, ask around to your friends and locals. Find out who they use and if they are pleased. It’s not a good deal if you are with a company that won’t answer your calls or help you when you need it.
6. Carry multiple policies with the same insurance company. Many companies offer a discount if you hold more than one policy with them. You could have your homeowners, renters, or life insurance policy with that company. Ask if they have a multiple policy discount.
7. Drive a low profile car. Some cars have a reputation for speeding tickets and trouble and therefore the premium for them is higher. Annual reports are available that list the most stolen cars in the country.
8. Keep your credit in good standing. Until recently, I didn’t realize that insurance companies check your credit regularly. A few months ago we received a letter from our insurance company stating that our rate would be higher because of an issue on our credit report. We did some investigating and found an incorrect claim that we had to dispute and get corrected. Without the insurance credit check, we wouldn’t have known about the error or that insurance companies check on people.
9. Maintain a safe driving record. This one seems like common sense, but a ticket or accident could really raise your insurance rates. Pay attention to speed limits and school zones. If you do get a ticket, see if you could take a safe driver course to reduce the points and insurance premium.
10. Drive less. Some insurance companies offer low mileage discounts for those that carpool or drive a low amount of miles each year. I once received the discount because I worked less than five miles from my house.
Making calls, comparing rates, and asking for discounts can save you hundreds each year. Make sure you have enough coverage and be safe.
What other tips do you have to add?
image (c) Karen Weideman
July 4, 2011
I get fake/phishy emails to my inbox quite frequently. I received another today claiming it was from paypal. I thought this was a good time to remind you not to click on links in emails that claim to be from your bank, paypal, Craigslist, etc.
Even ones that look real, such as this one, are usually scams to get your info. Take a look at the email I recently received. It looks pretty legitimate. It also contained two links within the email for me to use to sign in to my paypal account.
Rather than clicking on the links, I opened a new window and typed in the paypal address myself. Sure enough, there were no messages from paypal showing on my account. Beware of this fradulent emails that are designed to steal your information and your money.
Notification of Limited Account Access RXI-992
Hello Karen Weideman,
As part of our security measures, we regularly screen activity in the PayPal
system. We recently contacted you after noticing an issue on your account.
We requested information from you for the following reason:
A recent review of your account determined that we require some additional
information from you in order to provide you with secure service.
Case ID Number: PP-758-524-697
This is a second reminder to log in to PayPal as soon as possible. Once you log
in, you will be provided with steps to restore your account access.
Be sure to log in securely by using the following link:
Click here to login and restore your account access
Once you log in, you will be provided with steps to restore your
account access. We appreciate your understanding as we work to ensure account
In accordance with PayPal’s User Agreement, your account access will remain
limited until the issue has been resolved. Unfortunately, if access to your
account remains limited for an extended period of time, it may result in further
limitations or eventual account closure. We encourage you to log in to your
PayPal account as soon as possible to help avoid this.
To review your account and some or all of the information that PayPal used to
make its decision to limit your account access, please visit the Resolution
Center. If, after reviewing your account information, you seek further
clarification regarding your account access, please contact PayPal by visiting
the Help Center and clicking “Contact Us”.
We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please understand that
this is a security measure intended to help protect you and your account. We
apologize for any inconvenience.
PayPal Account Review Department
Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and you
will not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account
and click the Help link in the top right corner of any PayPal page.
Copyright © 1999-2010 PayPal. All rights reserved.
PayPal Email ID PP522
April 19, 2011
It’s tax time and leave it to crooks to find an opportunity to take advantage of people. I received this email today. It’s even addressed from email@example.com.
You are encouraged to pay a penalty for the failure to file income tax returns prior to January 31, 2011.
Note, IRC [Section 6038(b)(1)]
provides for a monetary penalty of $10,000 for each [Form 5471]
that is filed after the due date of the income tax return or does not include the complete and accurate information described in [Section 6038(a)].
No penalty will be imposed if the company shows that the late filing was due to reasonable cause.
For more information please refer to attached file.
Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury.
Many times these emails will lure you into clicking on links or opening attachments. These are ways to get your information or to give your computer a virus.
The IRS website has more information on suspicious emails.
March 5, 2011
Each year I procrastinate getting my taxes done. All of the itemizations and deductions are confusing and many times overwhelming. Thankfully, I have an established relationship with an accountant in our area. She is so nice and doesn’t mind me emailing her with questions. All of this craziness is making a flat tax sound all the more appealing. Why do we all have to go through this each year? But that’s another rant for another day. Back to this whole tax mess . . .
The adoption tax credit has changed, there are rules about purchasing a new home, selling a home, and what if you receive a monthly housing allowance?
If you’re the common man (like me), this sounds like a foreign language to you. Don’t give up just yet. You want your taxes done correctly and you want to receive your money without delay. Forms that are filed incorrectly can delay refunds.
All of these new laws and extended tax credits make it really hard for a person to file their own taxes. I am known for being a thrifty tightwad money saving cheapskate, but here’s one time I cringe and shell out the money to a professional.
Of course, there are some ways to save money on your tax preparation expenses. Have your papers organized and deductions itemized by category. Don’t make the tax preparer search through your papers. Since they usually charge by the hour, this will only cost them time which costs you money.
Remember that the IRS has set up a handy YouTube channel to help answer some of your questions.
Will you hire a professional this year?
image sxc by YM
November 11, 2010
There are many of you wondering if you should purchase the cell phone insurance. Most financial advisors, such as Clark Howard, say that in most cases you should not get the insurance.
If you have a regular cheapo cell phone (like me), then I wouldn’t recommend getting the insurance. A simple math sentence of $5 x 12 months will tell you that it’s just not worth the money. You can purchase the cheap phones on ebay or Craigslist usually for less than $50. The ordinary phones with no bells or whistles are generally easy to come by and last a few years. The problem with the expensive phones and Smartphones is that are known to have problems.
Take my husband’s phone(ssssss) for example. He has had probably a DOZEN phones from Verizon. He first started out with the Blackberry. After getting about five Blackberry Storms and two Storm 2s, Verizon gave him a Droid. After having a few Droids, they told him the problems were from the things he had downloaded on to his phone and for him to take off all of the applications. HUH? What’s the point of having a data phone if you can’t have apps on it?
All of the phones were sent back for issues such as locking up, not receiving data, the phone staying lit up, etc. The problem is that when you send back your phone, you’re not getting a new phone; you’re getting a “refurbished” phone. I have no clue what qualifies these phones as refurbished because they have many issues. Just a few months ago, we dropped off another Verizon phone at a Charlotte, NC FedEx location to be shipped back and the representative at this location told my husband that they ship approximately 30 phones from that location each day! Ok, ok, this is moving towards the craziness of Verizon so I’ll move on.
Basically, the advice is this: If you have a regular cell phone, then the insurance probably isn’t worth the money. If you have a more expensive phone, I’d strongly consider it.
Do you have insurance on your cell phone? What kind of experiences have you had?
Edited: Be sure to read the fine print on cell phone insurance policies. Some charge a $35 deductible.
October 3, 2010
I am a thrifty tightwad money saving bargain hunting cheapskate. It’s become second nature to me. In everything I purchase, I am looking for ways to save money. Many times I don’t even realize I’m doing it and then it eventually becomes obvious to me when I see the things that others are purchasing. I realize that many of us are trying to live a more frugal lifestyle these days. Here are some reasons to save.
No regrets - Have you ever purchased something and then later are left with buyer’s remorse? It’s an awful feeling. Or maybe you have been in a financial hard place and wish you had all the money back that you had frivilously spent. I’ve been there too. If only we could undo our mistakes. Unfortunately, we can’t have a do-over but we can learn from our errors.
Debt free life - Saving money allows you to have more money in your wallet. This enables you to pay cash for your purchases, save for the future, and live a debt free life. If you have high credit card payments, then you may not have the money to pay cash for every day purchases or you may not have saved for unexpected emergencies, so then you’ll end up charging those things you need. It all a vicious cycle.
Save for other purchases - By saving money on everything I buy, I am able to put money into my savings account for future purchases. Last year my husband and I purchased a new mattress set for our bedroom and put a down payment on our house. This year we purchased a used mini van, upgraded my kitchen appliances to stainless, and purchased an HE washer and dryer. All of these things were paid for with cash. Trust me, it’s not because we are rich. We are everyday people. We just save money in every way we can, look for the best deals, weigh our options, and pay cash for purchases.
Helping the environment - People that are seeking to save money and live frugally are usually environmental friendly. They spend less, consume less products, buy used, and try to use the things they already have.
Helping others - By living a thrifty lifestyle, I am able to help others in need. It may be by giving food and toiletries that I have purchased for really cheap or free with sales and coupons. It may be by using extra money that we have because we haven’t spent the money on extravagant items or car payments.
Why do you live a thrifty lifestyle?
August 28, 2010
“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.” ~Earl Wilson
June 24, 2010
While traveling today, I was able to listen to part of the Clark Howard Show and a portion of the Dave Ramsey Show. This is a rare occurrence for me, so I was thrilled to hear some financial advice. It’s a shame I was driving, because there was plenty of information that I could have jotted down to share with you. I do remember one particular bit about parenting and boundaries.
One of the callers on the Dave Ramsey Show said that her son had been living in her basement for two years, rent free. She said that he worked full-time and whenever she asked him to help out with the bills, he said he couldn’t afford it. The lady was seeking advice and basically, Dave Ramsey told her this:
2. Talk to your spouse and agree upon a plan.
3. Sit down with your child and apologize. Tell them you’re sorry that you have failed them and allowed them to live this way. Let them know that you’re going to do the right thing and help them be responsible.
4. Give your child 90 days to move out. Have them sign a contract with the date to move out.
5. As a gift, offer to pay for Financial Peace University Classes for your child. (These are great classes!!!!) The caller said she had offered these to her son but he was not interested.
6. Guide your child along the way, helping them to manage their money. Do not pay their bills for them, but let them know you’ll be there for them if they’re hungry.
7. If at the end of the 90 days your child has been working hard and you feel they need additional time, you can offer them an additional 30 days.
I think the reason that this story stood out to me so much is that I know of a few families that have been in this situation. Let me just say, if your child is 25 or even 30 years old, works full-time, has lived at home for years and has NOTHING to show for it, there is a big problem! I am not normally this direct and opinionated on my websites, but you are ENABLING your child to fail! You’re not doing them or yourself any favors. We should be training our children to become adults, to be self-supporting, and successful in life. Some people are more motivated than others. Unmotivated children sometimes need a push in the right direction. Paying their bills for them and not requiring anything of them is not doing anyone any favors.
The world is full of people that moved out at a young age, got married young, put themselves through college, or whatever the circumstance may be. Many times success comes from having no other option but to succeed or fail.
Based upon the Amazon reviews of this book, it is also a good book for those that feel like they can’t say “no”, are a doormat, or those with problems parenting. I have not read this book, but it has received positive reviews.
Do you know of a family that has failed to set up boundaries with their children?
As always, please use common sense with this approach. I don’t think this type of plan would apply to an 18 year old that just finished high school, a full-time college student, a child with medical bills, or someone going through a hardship. This is for children whom are not in school and are unmotivated to move out of their parents’ home.
May 27, 2010
When we think of teenagers and money, it usually brings thoughts of expensive name brand clothing, lattes, movie nights, accessories, and more. This is not the case for Lindsay Binegar of Ohio.
Lindsay has been saving her 4-H earnings since she was 4-years-old. Lindsay recently used her earnings from the past 15 years to pay cash for a house!
I hope Lindsay’s story inspires us all to realize that if we live beneath our means and save, we too can stay out of debt and have financial goals. Enjoy the story!