ways to save your green during the holidays|
Teri Cettina Bankrate.com||
The average American will spend $791.10 this year
in holiday gifts, food and decor, according to a recent survey by
the National Retail Federation.
What's more, consumers also plan to spend an average
of $99.22 each on gifts for themselves.
If spending $890.32 for the family's
holiday is too rich for your blood -- and don't forget, that's before
you start adding credit-card interest to the total -- it's time
to get smart about your shopping. Here is a merry bundle of ways
to save your green during the upcoming holidays:
1. Try a nontraditional tree.
Many families who celebrate Christmas end up arguing every
year about the cost of their tree. Although evergreens are relatively
inexpensive in certain parts of the country, such as the Northwest,
trees can be budget-breakers in many other states.
In arid Utah, for instance, Christmas trees are generally
shipped into the area from elsewhere. This year an 8-foot tree is
expected to fetch up to $50, depending on the variety.
Craig Israelsen, a family finance teacher at Brigham
Young University in Provo, Utah, has come up with a new way to beat
the cost of Utah's Christmas trees: "Some years, our family's
Christmas tree is a large new houseplant, such as a ficus, or an
outdoor shrub that we will eventually transplant into our garden,"
If you live near a national forest, contact your local
forestry office to see if they sell Christmas tree permits to
the public. (Not all will, and those that do may offer a limited
supply.) Though the permit will cost a few dollars, it will allow
you to cut down a tree you can take home for free. Make sure to
follow all the rules of the permit. You may be restricted to certain
species, heights and designated areas.
option is a well-made artificial tree. Check local retailers or buy them online
at sites such as Tree Classics
or Christmas Trees
Galore. They will cost hundreds of dollars more than ones you'd cut yourself, but you can use them again for years. If you're on the fence about going artificial, buy your tree on sale
after the holidays, when they often can be snapped up for as much as 75 percent
off the regular retail price.
2. Brave the post-Thanksgiving
crowds. If you're not faint of heart, you can actually save
money by shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving, says Ellie Kay,
author of several money-saving books, including "The Debt Diet."
Kay has bargain-hunted this way for years. "I often start at
5 a.m. and finish by 9 a.m., just in time for a nice cup of coffee,"
Kay suggests shopping strategically on that hectic
day. "Plan your gifts in advance, and then read through the
sales circulars on Thanksgiving so you're well-prepared," she
says. "Carefully check store-opening times, which are often
as early as 5 a.m., and watch for the fine print regarding popular
items, such as 'until stock runs out' or 'available to first 100
Kay also suggests shopping with
a bargain-minded buddy. That way, your pal can be at one end of a store shopping
for certain limited-quantity items while you're across the store buying others.
3. Redeem your credit card rewards.
If you carry a credit card that offers cash back or airline miles, consider redeeming
your rewards and putting the money or miles toward Christmas gifts.