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How to Celebrate Christmas Without Going Into Debt

We're nearing the height of the holiday season, and that means more spending is around the corner. The cost of living isn't dropping in the near future, and some things are double the price of what they were last year. Some people even expect to go into debt after this Christmas holiday. Let us be the voice of sanity that says - money isn't a measure of holiday spirit! 

You can be frugal and festive at the same time. We've composed a little Christmas-savings guide for you, with tips on how to save when cooking dinner and buying gifts. 



Holiday Savings

1. How do I make a Christmas budget?

Christmas saving piggy bank
Budgeting for Christmas is just like any other budgeting. Before making your budget, see what you already have from last year; reusing decorations is good for the wallet and the environment. If you already have enough bottles of wine, maybe you don't need to buy more. And maybe, you even have enough leftover wrapping paper.
We suggest making a separate budget for food, gifts, and extras (such as decorations or even utility bills that may double during this month). Stick to the budget at all costs, and track your expenses on an app or written notes. 
The budget will help you decide what to buy and to skip, and how much you're willing to spend on each section.

2. How can I save on Christmas gifts?

Christmas budget table
* If you're blessed with a large extended family, consider family gifting. Giving one big family gift instead of buying one present for each individual can save you loads, and if you put some thought into it, the outcomes can be very touching. 
* If you want to buy individual gifts, there's no shame in buying second-hand as long as the item is in good shape. 
* Open up about your financial struggles - everyone will understand. Suggest taking a week's raincheck on presents, so that you can enjoy January's discounts. Prices start to drop as early as January 1st. 

3. Online shopping tips

Christmas themed gifts and calculator
* Add to cart. Wait one week. In most cases, you'll have a personalized discount voucher waiting in your inbox. Retailers usually do this as a measure to secure deals. 
* Surf the web in incognito mode to avoid price spikes. 
* Join a retailer's newsletter, as this usually comes with 10% off for new members. Simply unsubscribe afterward. You can invent new email addresses for each purchase. 
* Be mindful of delivery fees. If you're making multiple purchases from a single retailer, consider a delivery pass. If you haven't yet, now is the time to activate your Amazon Prime 30-day free trial to enjoy free deliveries. Set a reminder to cancel before the free trial ends. 

Five additional saving tips:

* When it comes to sales - don't be tempted easily! It's only a good deal if you were planning to buy this item anyway. Avoid loans and "buy now, pay later" deals. These have high interests and, more often than not, have a negative impact on your credit score.  

* Buying new appliances? Look at the energy label, which hints at how much energy this product consumes. 

Consider size as well - the bigger the size, the higher the running costs. 

* Avoid overloading energy with excessive Christmas lights. These are major energy consumers. For the indoors, non-electric lights or candles will do the job just as well.

*If you're buying from credit - you can't afford it. If you can't afford it, best avoid it!

* Use price comparison and cashback websites:
Camelcamelcamel.com will tell you the price of an Amazon item year-round. 
BeFrugal.com is a well-known cashback option. You're welcome to explore other sites if you'd like. 
You can also use deal-finding browser extensions. The most common one is Honey, but see what works for you. Just remember to turn off notifications when you're not planning on making purchases. 


Holiday Cooking Savings

About 20% of a home's energy expenses come from the kitchen. There are many habits you can change to lower energy costs. In this section, we cover how to avoid a high utility bill. 

Which kitchen appliances consume the most and least energy?

Christmas decorated kitchen
The biggest energy consumer in the kitchen is the oven. That is because it has a large space that needs to be evenly heated. Fan ovens can reduce energy consumption by up to 20% since they change temperatures faster than an electric oven. Air fryers consume less energy than the oven, but the most frugal appliance is the slow cooker. 

Cooking saving tips

Christmas cookie dough

* Microwave cooking: the microwave has a potent savings potential since it only targets the water molecules in the food and not an entire cooking chamber. Recipes with high-moisture foods, like stews and risotto, cook well in the microwave. Potatoes will cook in about 15 minutes in the microwave as opposed to an hour needed in the oven. 
Avoid cooking meat and poultry in the microwave. 

* Plan a baking schedule to prepare all your dishes in a row and avoid preheating the oven multiple times. 

* Use residual heat. After you switch off the oven, the heat that remains is perfect for reheating leftovers, warming bread, or even toasting nuts. 

* Don't preheat the oven when making slow-cooked recipes. Turn it on and insert the tray as you do. 

* Lid boiling water to prevent heat from escaping, and use pans and pots the same size as the flame - they use up that energy most efficiently. 

* Use passive cooking, a technique invented in the 19th century to save energy. Turn the heat off when you're about 80-90% into the cooking time. So, for example, turn the flame off on pasta after 7-8 minutes of cooking if it needs 10 minutes to cook. Cover the pot and let the residual heat do the work for the time that remains. 
This works both for baking and stovetop cooking. However, don't use this method for baked pastries, cooked legumes, or meat. These require accuracy.  

* Avoid overstuffing the freezer or leaving the fridge door open too long.

* Don't boil an entire kettle for a small cup of coffee. Instead, pre-measure the amount you need to shorten the process and save energy. You can also boil a full kettle and keep it warm in a thermos instead of brewing cup-by-cup throughout the day. 

Source: GoodHouseKeepingUK

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