It’s the most wonderful time of the year—and the worst time for your wallet. The holiday season is a time of feasting too much, exercising too little, and spending way, way more than you need to. From last-minute impulse buys to poor travel decisions, the new year season is fraught with financial folly.
Looking to kickstart 2023 with your savings account intact? Here are some ways you can avoid overspending this holiday season and end/start the year with a bang—for your buck.
1. Pick your party people thoughtfully
Part of the fun during the festive season is being able to stuff your face repeatedly in the company of friends and family. However, attending lots of New Year parties can get expensive.
If you’re hosting a party, it goes without saying that you’ll incur the greatest cost buying food, drinks, and disposable cutlery for your guests. Even if you’re attending a party hosted at someone else’s home, it’s poor form if you show up without contributing a bottle of wine or a log cake for sharing. If it’s a potluck, all the more you’ll be expected to bring something decent. And don’t forget the cab fare home if the party rages on till late at night.
So what should you do to ensure you don’t overspend at parties? Be picky. Invite a smaller pool of friends to your party, and learn to say no to some invites from people you’re not that close to and don’t really want to get to know better. They’re probably not worth your time, and certainly not worth your dollar.
2. Shop affordably for party supplies
Decided who you’d like to invite or which end-of-year parties you want to go for? The next step to avoi overspending is to choose your food and drink wisely.
When it comes to potluck parties, don’t feel pressured to show up with the most expensive bottle of wine. There is plenty of affordable, locally sourced stuff you can bring, such as a tub of ice cream or a good old six-pack of Tiger beer.
Handy in the kitchen? Cooking your potluck contribution or catering for your own party is probably going to be cheaper than buying pre-made dishes. These prices often get jacked up during the holiday season. Plus, you’ll give your friends the pleasure (we hope) of sampling your home cooking.
3. Buy fewer holiday gifts at lower costs
It may be the season of giving, but sometimes the obligation to buy gifts gets out of hand.
Many employees in Singapore feel obligated to buy festive gifts for everyone on their team at work. We get it—you know you’ll be receiving gifts from everyone else and don’t want to be seen as cheap. The same sometimes happens at end-of-year parties with friends.
Unfortunately, these situations often result in everyone going home with gifts they neither like nor need. Most people, being pressed for time, just bought generic presents like Body Shop shower gel or Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
If that charade looks like it’s about to repeat itself this year, take matters into your own hands and suggest organising a Secret Santa exercise for all the parties to have to attend. That instantly allows everyone to get away with buying only one gift, and the fixed budget guarantees you won’t overspend.
There are also ways to save money on the gifts you do have to get. For zero or practically zero cost gifts, you could thoughtfully regift a book you’ve read and loved, or make your own gifts by hand. We daresay your friends and family would take your homemade granola or hand-sewn camera strap anytime over anything you could buy in a store.
For a low cost gift, consider gifting pre-loved items. Music aficionados might appreciate rare, old school CDs from their favourite artists that you can buy in mint condition from online marketplaces such as Carousell. And if you’re shopping for a serial thrift shopper, take a look at thrift shops such as Refash – you never know what pre-loved gems you might find there for a fraction of the original price. Not only are these options economic, they’re also eco-friendly and help to reduce waste.
4. Start shopping for the next holiday season now
The trick to saving money on your holiday gifts? Don’t wait for that Christmas tree. If you’ve already decided to get Junior that Nintendo Switch he’s been begging for, start shopping early for it so you can take advantage of more discounts and promotions. While the 11.11 and 12.12 sales periods are the most obvious cost-saving opportunities, you can even start browsing from January if you have the space and means to hide presents bought months in advance.
Another cost-saving tip is to try buying multiple presents on the same online platform and at the same time. Online shopping sites often have platform-wide vouchers that you can apply at checkout once you hit a certain minimum spend, especially during sales campaigns periods.
And if you have enough lead time before the festive season, it might be cheaper to purchase certain items from overseas websites and get them shipped to Singapore, either directly or through shipping services like vPost and ezShip.
Finally, check which credit cards can get you the best cashback for online and offline purchases.
5. Gift shareable items and experiences
Every parent knows how stressful exam season is for kids. So you can be excused for wanting to reward children for surviving yet another school year and doing okay on their exams. But how do you reward the young ones without overspending?
In a multiple-child household you can save a bit of cash by getting the kids to share one big-ticket item or experience rather than buying individual gifts for each. For instance, in a three-kid household, it might be more economical to buy the kids a Nintendo Wii to be shared between them rather than three Nintendo Switches.
You could also reward the kids with a trip to, say, Universal Studios instead of purchasing individual gifts. This not only lets you sneakily avoid having to buy a gift, but also lets you pass off a family outing you’d already planned to go on as a special reward. Shh, just make sure the kids never find out.
Image credit: Walter Lim via Flickr
6. Stagger your flights within a travel group
The end-of-year holidays are one of the only times of the year parents and their kids can take off on overseas family trips. Unfortunately, this also means having to pay peak flight ticket prices as everyone scrambles to go on holiday at the same time.
To make matters worse, work commitments probably mean that the best days everyone can fly out are also the priciest within an already pricey period – weekends. If you’re travelling in a big group, consider staggering your arrivals. Those who are able to fly on weekdays when ticket prices are lower can depart first, to be joined later by those who have more commitments.
7. Save on school supplies for the young ones
Before the beginning of the next school year, textbooks need to be bought and uniforms need to be replaced.
With a little bit of advance planning, there are ways you can save money. Use online marketplace platforms such as Carousell to purchase second hand textbooks, which can often be found in mint condition.
Based on our quick search, used textbooks can cost as little as $1 to $5 each, with some even giving them away for free for anyone who can self-collect from their house. At the same time, you can use the same platform to sell old books you’re sure your child no longer needs.
If you’re lucky, you might also have relatives with kids who can pass down their school items to you, especially if their kids are in the same school, or have graduated and left behind unused notebooks and writing materials. While you’re making merry at those New Year parties, slip in some small talk and find out if they have old textbooks, stationery or uniforms they no longer have a use for. Your relatives would probably be more than happy to pass these items to you for free.
8. Entertain the young ones at low or no cost
So the kids will be home and it’s the only time in the year they won’t have homework to keep them busy. Some parents spend lots of money signing their kids up for enrichment classes or tuition to prepare them for the next year. Others overspend by taking them to expensive indoor playgrounds to keep them entertained.
The good news is that Singapore is extremely kid-friendly, and there are lots of free or cheap facilities that can keep your kids busy at minimal cost.
Younger kids will enjoy trips to massive free outdoor playgrounds at West Coast Park, Admiralty Park or Gardens by the Bay, while primary school age children will enjoy trips to public swimming complexes equipped with huge water slides, such as those at Jurong East, Sengkang or Pasir Ris. Our local public libraries also regularly organise free events featuring everything from story reading sessions to craft workshops.
Final words on managing your year-end budget
While the festive season can be a traumatic spend-fest, it’s also highly predictable. The end-of-year holidays roll around without fail every single year. This means you can anticipate them and put in place plans to avoid overspending. For example, you can save on costs by buying air tickets and shopping for gifts well in advance.
However, a spike in spending is nonetheless inevitable during the festive season for many of us. So it’s a good idea to factor this increased spending in your overall budget for the year. If you can cut back earlier in the year and save up, you can escape the end-of-year spend-fest without having to dip into your savings.
Don’t have the discipline to actively monitor your savings throughout the year? You can set up a savings account to automatically put aside a small sum monthly. By the time the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have extra to spend on your gift shopping and end-of-year parties.
Finally, remember to prioritise your savings. Avoid dipping into your emergency fund at all costs or, worse, getting into credit card debt or taking out personal loans to pay for your end-of-year celebrations. Figure out how much you can actually afford to spend and stick to your budget, even if it means missing a party or two or giving more modest gifts.
Main image credit: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr