Welcome to Happy Holiday Savings Part Two!

For the first five ideas, please check last week’s blog. Here we go with the next five…

Some of the prepackaged foods at this time of year can be especially tempting as they can help save time when you are hosting or on your way to a party. But try to break down what you are getting as product and time saved to see if it’s truly worth it. E.g. some of the veggie platters for $25 or cheese platters for $40 seem crazy expensive to me.

The other day we bought a big wheel of brie, generously dressed with olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, and pickled onion. Normally it cost $19 but was on sale for $13. Now sale prices don’t always mean much to me, as in, if the original price is super high then the sale price may just be what it should actually be, especially if you shop at a somewhat more expensive store, like we often have to do in our small town with limited selection.

Now in some ways, that cheese was a good deal compared to the relative price – e.g. it was four times the size of a wheel that would easily cost $5 – as in, it could have cost $20 if an equal amount of cheese had been bought separately. Plus there was the bonus of the extra dressings. But…it’s a lot of cheese and more than hubby and I could or should go through in a few days by ourselves. So yes, we got a “good deal”, but more than we, or our arteries, need. A good compromise ended up being giving a healthy chunk of it, dressed up, to a friend as a wee thank you for hosting us for a casual lunch, in lieu of making a purchase of a different item. I’m taking a break from the rest of the wheel today, but I’ll be back in cheesy land tomorrow, of both food and special Christmas TV shows.

When buying things like dips, check out the options where you can perhaps buy a container of four types of dips of 500 grams total for $6 as opposed to buying just two separate dips of 450 grams total for $8.

Hint number 6: Assess the true value of premade platters or special deli options and even if a lot of something is a good deal, if it’s more than you need or even want, it could result in excess consumption of food and money, not to mention excess miles needing to be run in the New Year. Earl, my craggy old (imaginary) friend on a veranda down South, whom we met last week in Part One, thinks I said “excess smiles”, but I didn’t.

 

The more prepackaged anything is, the more it’s going to cost. So while some baskets of goodies that are put together can be reasonable, others are a rip off, like spending $39 for a couple of types of crackers, two small jars of jam, some biscuits, and a small box of tea. Just because they are in a basket wrapped in cellophane doesn’t make these items worth twice their normal price.

A few five dollar baskets or cute boxes and easy picking of a theme, e.g. savoury or sweet, and you can come up with a nice basket of goodies for about $25. You can check out places like Winners or HomeSense to find some affordable but classy looking food items to make part of your theme, like fancy coloured salts, because that’s something we all need, right?

Hint number 7: A little bit of effort put into your presents can help save a substantial amount of money.

 

I definitely appreciate dollar stores for a variety of things including top ups for Christmas “stuff” – e.g. decorations, cards, stockings, crackers, spices, napkins, datebooks, stationery, colouring pencils, stickers, calendars, small chocolate bars and other treats for stocking stuffers, socks, and so on.  One little example of saving – for stocking stuffers like the foot smoother thing, whatever it’s really called, you can spend $2 as opposed to $10 at the local drugstore.

Over the years, I’ve found dollar stores to be a great resource to find both practical and fun treasures to fill the shoeboxes to be given to kids of all ages in need, either internationally or locally.

For a couple of new friends who are both writers, I’ve bought a couple of journals which I’ll dress up a bit to personalize them, and give them along with my pretty pink logo pens totalling about $12 for the two gifts. So a combo of dollar store offerings plus items from other resources can make a decent gift for a decent price.

Another example: Instead of buying a glass container at the drugstore filled with candy for $14, dollar stores are a great resource for nice containers that can be filled with goodies from the bulk bins at the grocery store (like nuts or chocolates) for less than half that price.

Keep in mind that when items are extra affordable, it can be extra tempting to purchase more than you need, so remember you are trying to save by spending less than you would at another store as opposed to just buying more items. Try not to shop randomly but have clarity on the destination for each item, even if your tummy is the answer for some of the questions. Oh hello, O Henry.

Hint number 8: For some items that you could easily spend a lot more on, check out local resources that offer similar or the same items for much less. Pay for some items in total what you would pay in tax alone on similar pieces at another store. Think of what Earl would say if he saw such a costly item: “Dat dere’s a rip-off!”

 

When the clock starts ticking and rushing comes in to play, the urgent grab and go feel can definitely lead to greater amounts being spent, not to mention increasing stress and anxiety and forgetting what the occasion is really about.

It can be easy to grab something like the two chocolate bars for $7 that you normally spend only $3 each on, in other words spending more thinking it’s a “deal” as you’re caught up in the hurry. (Been there, done that.)

My goal with my blogs and books isn’t all about scrimping and serious frugality, but more about being a wise consumer, whatever your spending leeway is. So for the holiday season, I’d say slowing down, spreading the shopping out a bit more, making a list and checking it twice, or three times, and not just grabbing items randomly that you may or may not need, would be my recommendations.

Hint number 9: Decrease the urgency and decrease expenditures.

 

I love the charities that do great things with donations like offering children supplies for a year of school or the planting of a fruit tree or endless other options that aren’t just a matter of giving food for a day (not that food isn’t important!) but of helping people in need prosper long term. They can be presented as being “the gift” to others, but my habit so far has been to give that kind of thing as a bonus rather than the actual gift, so it’s not a money saver in itself, but it feels good to help others. International charities or buying gifts like goats for families in need may not result in a tax receipt, so if that’s something you want to keep in mind, you can check out organizations that are based in your country but that help others internationally. Or of course there are always local people, and animals, in need.

Taxes may not be top of your list at this time of year, but when the season rolls around next year, if you go over a certain amount with all your donations, you can find the bump in the percentage of tax write off can make a substantial difference in your tax return. Resulting in more money to budget towards next year’s holidays or Christmas or donations for those in need, yay!

Hint number ten:  Whether it’s just a small amount or a substantial amount, giving to those in need “just plain feels good” as Earl would say.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll have five more hints for you and then it’s time for a Christmas blogging break!

 

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