The holidays can be stressful—for you and your wallet. So this season, we’re turning your top questions over to the expert in gift giving on a budget, our resident unicorn of the sea: Whallace the Narwhal.
Q. Whallace, what’s your secret to saving money over the holidays?
A. I’m so happy you asked. That’s just the thing—it’s not a secret. It’s something anyone can do...something we narwhals like to call “budgeting.”
Q. The holidays are an unusually difficult time to budget. How do you do it?
A. The first thing I do is make a list of all the things I’ll need beyond gifts. Things like: travel expenses, gift wrap, decorations, food, donations and mustache wax (I go through a lot). Then, I decide on the total amount I want to spend, and I divide that into categories. This gives me an idea of how much I can spend on any one thing, and keeps my whal-let happy.
Q. What are some ways I can actually stick to my budget?
A. Make a list and track your spending. That means no self-gifting, no impulse buys and most importantly, no surprises. You’d be amazed at how all of these little things—an extra cuttlefish here, a last-second shrimp there—add up.
Q. Okay, so how do I find the best deals for the gifts on my list?
A. Lucky for you, there are some amazing money-saving apps, like Ebates, Honey and Amazon Assistant, that can help you find the best promotions, discount codes and websites while you shop. Just type "coupon browser extensions" in your online search bar. Never pay full price unless you’ve tried some of these (free) resources. I’m still holding out for the narwhal editions to drop. Sigh.
Q. Do you have any other tips to help me save on gifts?
A. Sure do. If you get creative, you can save a ton of clams. One of my favorite things to do is get together with some pals in my pod and go in on a present for another narwhal. It allows all of us to get a loved one something they want that we might not individually be able to afford.
Q. What about holiday decorations? They’re so overpriced...how can I save on those?
A. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do for very little money...with a little imagination (and opposable thumbs). Grab some branches and holly to create a simple wreath. Fill a jar with cranberries and tie a bow around it. Cut out some paper snowflakes and string them on a line. Or, just plan for next year and get all your decorations after the holidays, when they drop to 75% off.
Q. How about ways to save on holiday travel?
A. If you can be flexible with your travel dates and where you’re staying, try traveling on the weekdays and stay just outside of popular downtown areas. These two things alone will save you boatloads of money (and I’ve seen a lot of boats).
Q. Suppose I wait too long. How can I find last-minute gifts (that don’t feel “last-minute”)?
A. My go-to? eGift Cards. If you get creative, you can find a gift card to a place that reflects your giftee’s unique style and taste (believe it or not, it doesn’t even have to be for seafood). Plus, they get delivered to your recipient’s inbox the same day, and you’ll avoid ginormous rush shipping fees.
Q. Are there any other ways to give around the holidays?
A. Of course! There are plenty of people (and animals) who could use a little pick-me-up around this time of the year. Look for local non-profit organizations, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes and coastal cleanups where you can volunteer your time. It’s the easiest way to give and impact a lot of individuals at once.
Q. I didn’t see this article, and now I have tons of holiday debt. How do I pay it off?
A. Never fear, Whallace the Narwhal is here. First, after paying your essential bills, determine how much you can pay each month toward your debt. This might require cutting back on some habits—like daily lattes, subscription boxes and sushi deliveries—for a few months. You may also want to consider debt consolidation (there are some great tips here). And next holiday season, remember to plan ahead with a budget.
Q. So...are narwhals even real?
A. Would you prefer to ask one of the other estimated 170,000 of us who live in the Arctic?
Q. Fair point. So how do you know so much about saving money?
A. When you’re gifting up to 500 narwhals a season, you have to get creative. Plus, I read a lot.
Q. That makes sense. Any final thoughts?
A. Set a budget, stick to it and don’t worry about what other people are doing. And as my mother always says, “don’t forget to breathe.” Oh, and happy holidays!
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