Christmas is Coming !!! (And so are the bills...)

I love the holiday season.  The lights, the trees the presents.  But.  I have learned how to budget Christmas like crazy.  I take advantage of every coupon, rebate and sale imaginable. I stalk every Black Friday Sale and I am prepared for Cyber Monday.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I see a pretty heavy uptick in bankruptcy cases right after New Years' Day.    I am not implying Christmas is the cause of bankruptcies, but it can be a tipping point.  So here are my top 5 money savings tips for the holidays:

1) Layaway.  Before credit cards became widely available in the late 80's, layaway was boon for middle class families.  Mom or Dad could snatch up that popular toy and make payments directly to the retailer until Christmas.  Well, Layaway has made a comeback.  Popular stores like Walmart, KMart, Sears and Toys R' Us, offer layaway.  Typically, you put down 10% of the purchase price and make periodic payments for 6-8 weeks until paid off.  This means a family can break that cost up over 3 to 4 paychecks rather than making a draining one time payment and, unlike credit, there is no debt following you around after the holidays

2) Christmas Club.  Yes, these still exist.  A number of local banks and credit unions maintain Christmas Club to allow you to save throughout the year.  My bank didn't offer one so I set up an account with Capital One 360 online banking.  You designate a certain amount of money to go from your primary account to your Christmas Club account periodically.  I have a $50 every two weeks.  By the end of the year, I have $1300 to spend for Christmas.  The interest rate isn't great but that money is socked away for its intended purpose.

3) Shopping Black Friday.  Yes, I am crazy for Black Friday, but I don't spend carelessly.  You can typically find the sale advertisements up to two weeks prior to the actual sale.  And Black Friday doesn't start on Friday, it now starts on the Wednesday before and lasts through Saturday.

4) Shopping Cyber Monday.  To compete with Black Friday, online retailers like Amazon have their own sale the following Monday.  you can find great deals on electronics, toys and other items.  If you want to buy an Amazon product in particular, like an Echo or a Kindle,  you will likely not find a better deal for the rest of the year.  Subscription services like Prime and Kindle unlimited may also be reduced in price.  Walmart also has its own Cyber Monday deals to compete with Amazon.

5) Shopping throughout the year.  Of course holding on to your gift buying list and keeping the recipients in mind throughout the year.  Doing this will allow you to catch some great deals on items that go on sale typically in the Spring or Summer but not during the period approaching Christmas.

Some of my favorite websites to track deals include:

Black Friday.com

The Krazy Coupon Lady