As the nation collectively tightens its belt this winter, many families are looking for ways to save money without sacrificing any of their holiday cheer. Better Business Bureau is providing advice on how consumers can cut down on spending and reduce household costs in their everyday lives without compromising the fun of the holiday season.
With major declines across many sectors of the economy, overall household wealth in the U.S. is down nearly $8 trillion in 2008; most of that loss is due to the ailing stock market rather than the decline in the housing market. In addition, the number of unemployed is expected to reach three million before the economy improves. And not surprisingly, most holiday season spending forecasts indicate that many Americans are planning to cut back on various seasonal expenses this year.
“Given the daily roller-coaster effect taking place in the U.S. stock market, and with credit card companies lowering maximum credit lines and raising interest rates, the economic future for many households is uncertain heading into the holidays,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. “With the sobering effect of the economy looming over this holiday season consumers are going to have to be creative with their dollar and be more conscious of their spending in order to avoid a holiday hangover.”
Following are six ways BBB is advising consumers to save money this holiday season:
Create a Budget and Stick to It
Holiday expenses can add up quickly, and one way to keep the financial damage to a minimum is to create a budget and then track spending. A budget should include the amount the family plans to spend on food, travel, incidentals and even a price limit for each person on the gift list. Creating a budget can be harder than sticking to one, but becoming more conscious of holiday spending habits is an absolute must and greatly diminishes the chances of an unhappy New Year Your holiday budget needs to be a portion of your overall household budget. BBB along with ClearPoint Financial Solutions has developed an interactive budget tool that includes a new holiday spending calculator.
Click here to use the holiday budget calculator
Click here for more advice on creating a budget and sticking to it.
Trim the Gift-giving List
When times are tight, whittling down the shopping list can save a lot of money. Aside from cutting the list down to only the closest of friends and family, some options include only giving gifts to children, setting generally accepted limits on what family and friends can spend and drawing names for gifts among family. Unfettered giving is fun and spontaneous, but the credit card bill that will come in January can make even the most cheerful of givers grumpy in the New Year.
Do it Yourself
Not only are craft projects a great way to get the family working together, making decorations and even gifts is a great way to save money. There are many Web sites and books dedicated to holiday craft projects. For those who are crafty in the kitchen, holiday goodies such as baked goods and candies are also a much appreciated and inexpensive gift.
Forego the Little Things
When it comes to the holidays, the little things add up. Many of these little things can actually be pared down in leaner times. This includes foregoing season’s greetings cards, relying on last year’s decorations and using alternative wrapping paper—such as the Sunday comics or even the retailer’s shopping bag.
Be a Savvy Consumer
There will no doubt be a record number of sales this year as retail stores compete for shoppers’ dollars in the lean months leading up to celebrations. Not only does this mean savings at the mall, but consumers can also search online retailers for deals and bargains. Before doing business with any online retailer though, BBB advises shoppers to check the company out with BBB first at www.bbb.org.
Trim Energy Consumption
There are many ways to save money by cutting down on energy costs. During the energy crisis of the late seventies, President Carter famously donned a sweater and asked the public to turn down their thermostats. That advice rings true today, but it doesn't mean the family has to suffer. BBB recommends turning the thermostat down only a few degrees when the family is home, and turning it down even more when at work or sleeping. Energy-conscious consumers can also reduce costs by driving less and keeping close to home for the holidays, as well as leaving outdoor Christmas lights on for only a few hours every night.
Click here for more advice on conserving energy.
For more trustworthy advice on creating a holiday season budget, shopping safely online, and advice on charitable giving, visit: www.bbb.org.
About Clearpoint Financial Solutions
ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions is a national 501c3 nonprofit offering budgeting, housing and credit counseling services in all 50 states. ClearPoint is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and a system-wide member of the Better Business Bureau.