Parent Tips for Saving Money in December
Sing it with me: It’s the most exp-e-nsive time of the year. December is a pricey month. Energy bills skyrocket, Santa lands his sleigh, travel costs leap, and for some, unpaid time off shrinks the paycheck. Yes, this most wonderful time of the year is also an expensive one for parents. Here are a few tips for saving money as year-end closes in.
Think Outside the Gift Box
Among the biggest line items in a December budget is gifts. Toy books fill our mailboxes, commercials shape our wishlists, and receipts line our wallets. The most effective way to shrink your gift-giving budget is to get creative. (And no, we don’t mean macaroni necklaces.) Rather than simply go cheap, consider what non-cash resources you have at your disposal. Sitting on airline miles? Give a grandparent the gift of quality time by flying them out to see the grandkids. Have a family heirloom that’s equally loved by a sibling? Pass it on for another household to enjoy. Have an entrepreneurial child and a woodworking skill set? Build a lemonade stand with scrap lumber. Your bottom line will breathe easier, and your recipients will be touched by your thoughtfulness.
Don’t Compete for Airspace with Santa’s Sleigh
According to a recent study from Hotwire, Americans spend a whopping $58 billion on year-end travel. One of biggest factors in holiday travel is almost universal demand. Most Americans have the same days off, want to be with their loved ones at the same times, and need to get back to work all on the same week. If you have the flexibility, travel on the days with least demand. Namely, Christmas Day. Plane tickets on either side of December 25th can easily cost three to four times as much as traveling the morning after Santa’s sleigh has cleared the airspace.
Cool Off Those Energy Bills
Just when you’ve gotten your mall spending under control and your plane tickets on the cheap, the bill hits your inbox. The energy bill. In cold regions of the country, heating can easily triple electric bills in winter months. We’ll leave the energy saving tips to the pros at the Department of Energy, and tackle a different side: billing strategy. Most energy companies allow customers of at least a year to average out their energy costs across the entire year. Rather than pay $60 in March and $360 in December, for example, customers are billed one average amount every month. Yes, your bills will be higher in lower usage months than they otherwise would, but you’ll free your December paycheck from yet one more atypical expense.
Old December Habits Die Hard
There’s a sneaky side effect to all of December’s unusual expensive: habit. When we get in the pattern of spending, it’s hard to stop. In the same way that a third donut goes down easily after a season of letting the diet go out the window, “what’s another” syndrome can attack your wallet during the holidays. “What’s another $5 on a latte after a days of spending $531 at the mall?” “What’s another $22 for the grandkids?” The answer: next summer’s vacation. Next year’s unexpected medical expense. A safety net. A plane ticket for a friend’s wedding. Every dollar linked with the dangerous phrase, “what’s another” is a dollar you won’t have tomorrow. Our advice: put that wallet back and invest in the most valuable part of the holidays: time with the ones you love.