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Part 6: Save on the Special Things
Vacations. Birthdays. Holidays. We know they’re coming and yet it is so easy to blow our budgets just because “it’s a special occasion.” If you’re still with me after all this time, you should be starting to feel pretty good about your budget. After all, you’ve been able to make a distinction between your wants and needs, you’ve set a budget for yourself and hopefully found ways to save some money on the big things (like housing & insurance), the necessary things (like utilities & groceries), & even the fun things (like shoes!)
(NOTE: Before we go any further, if you are new to my blog or missed out on the last five weeks, you might want to start at Week 1: Stop Spending before starting this week’s assignment!)
If there is no leeway in your budget for those things that only come up once in a while, you may find yourself seriously strapped for cash when the time comes. Since holidays, birthdays, & vacations are terrible times to be worried about money, it is best to plan ahead.
This week’s assignment:
1. Set a Special Occasions Budget.
Sitting down and actually writing down how much you can afford to spend is a giant step towards saving money in this area. Too often we get caught up in wanting to “splurge” for something special, but those splurges can catch up with us! After all, there are a LOT of special occasions throughout the year! By looking at them as a whole, rather than a once-in-a-while thing, it is easer to see the big picture. It is also easier to set limits for ourselves when we are not caught up in the moment!
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2. Find ways to save throughout the year.
If you’ve read my Beginner’s Guide to Coupons you know that the key to saving lots of money with coupons is to buy things when they are at their rock bottom price, then stock up for when you need them. This method of shopping can easily be carried over to the rest of your life, and will save you a lot of money in the long run.
The more you plan ahead & buy things when they are cheapest, not when they are most convenient, the better off you will be. Stock up on items for the next year in the post-holiday clearance sales or buy toys & other gifts in bulk when you find a great special.
Keep in your purse or wallet a list of people or occasions you know you will need to buy gifts for in the next year Make sure it includes how much you have budgeted to spend.
3. Be on the lookout for good deals!
Once again, this is more of an ongoing assignment, and once again keep in mind are always going to be more bargains available than you can afford to spend. Stick to the list and to your budget Last week I listed several of my favorite places to score great deals; those same places apply here:
Amazon.com Gold Box–I have found some of my best deals on Christmas gifts here. Their Deals of the Day and Lightning Deals often feature products for 75% or more off the regular retail price. Even better, you can sign up for Amazon Mom (for free!) and get free 2 day shipping on almost everything.
Ebates–If you do any online shopping at all, using Ebates to get cash back on all your purchases is simply a no-brainer. However, Ebates also frequently features “Daily Double” specials that can mean huge discounts on a wide variety of items. When you sign up you will automatically receive their daily email, which is a great way to keep track of the specials!
Target-who doesn’t love Target? Their daily deals are often nothing short of amazing AND shipping is free!
Craigslist or Garage Sales-I have found some amazing deals on Craigslist, but usually only after a LOT of searching. I have the most success when I am looking for something specific, and then search daily until I find it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate either, even if the price is low. Unless it’s free, it can always go lower!
4. Shop around & compare prices
This almost goes without saying, but is especially important when you are booking vacation travel! Because prices fluctuate so much, there are no hard and fast rules about where to find the best travel deal. The only constant is that prices change a LOT, so shop around!
If you are traveling to a specific destination, be sure to price out all your different options and to check a variety of travel sites before you book. Don’t assume that package prices will be cheaper–sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t–and be sure to check smaller, independent airlines in addition to larger travel sites when booking flights.
On the other hand, if you just want to get a great deal on a vacation but aren’t too particular about where you go, you may want to check out some of the daily deal sites like Groupon, Eversave, Totsy, & Living Social that offer vacation deals. Additionally, Jetsetter is a daily deal site that exclusively offers high end vacation deals for a fraction of the normal price.
5. Start Working On Handmade Gifts
And that’s all for this week. Stay tuned for another next week’s saving challenge next Wednesday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing! What are your favorite ways to save on holidays, vacations, birthdays, & other special occasions?
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