This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.
Not too long ago, the local Sears hardware store not too far from where I work went out of business. During their going out of business liquidation sale, I picked up a couple of items that were a stupendous deal merely because they seemed like perfect Christmas gifts for people on my list. Then, I just put those items into a hidden place in our home and wait for Christmastime.
The result of this is that I can often get people gifts that utterly amaze them, without them knowing I didn’t pay too much for them. A great example came a couple years ago when I replaced all my mother’s pots and pans with Calphalon hard anodized stuff. She was completely convinced I had dropped several hundred dollars, but what I had actually found was a great deal – less than $40 for the whole array of pots and pans.
There are several benefits to this strategy:
First, you don’t have the huge Christmas rush on your bank account. If many of your Christmas gifts are already safely purchased and put away, you don’t need to drop a lot of cash at Christmastime.
Second, you have all year to shop, not just the Christmas season. That means there’s no rush to find something for Great Aunt Selma – there’s very little pressure.
Third, it saves a huge wad of money. You can find amazing gifts for just a bit of nothing if you keep an eye on sales throughout the year. I estimate that last year I saved at least $300 on Christmas by following this strategy – and that’s not even counting potential savings on the credit card.
It’s not very hard, either. Here’s the game plan.
Shortly after Christmas (or any time well in advance of the Christmas season), make your Christmas list for the following year. List everyone you’ll need to buy for and come up with a general idea or two for a gift for them. For example, last year for my mom, I listed “cooking equipment” and for my father “outdoorsman equipment.” Very general stuff. I keep this list in my wallet at all times, just as a reminder.
Throughout the year, look for going out of business sales or other spectacular offers that coincide with your list. Going out of business sales are usually great ones to hit if you can, as are sales that match up with the rotation of seasonal items from stores. Since you have the entire year, you don’t have to be bloodthirsty about it – just keep your eyes open.
Keep spare cash available so that you can buy something when you see it. When you find the right item at a spectacular price, you need to be able to grab it right then. Make sure you can always do this. I actually am a year ahead on my Christmas savings, meaning I have all the money I plan on spending on Christmas ready to go one year in advance.
Here’s another example: I have two people on my list who both enjoy board games. Recently, a game shop in my area decided to clean out their board gamingg section and had a very sudden sale of the games, many of which had sat there unsold for a while. I heard about it, walked in the door, and got a copy of Ticket to Ride for $12 (a spectacular board game) and several other board games for sub-eBay prices. I took them home, eBayed all but Ticket to Ride (and two others I kept for myself) and broke even. Free Christmas present for a relative, two free games for me, all because I took a bit of time to prepare.
Got an hour to burn? Make up your Christmas list for next year, then see if there are any going out of business sales or other great opportunities around. You might be able to save a pile on the Christmas season, plus cut a lot of stress out of your life.