Holiday shopping can take its toll on any military family’s budget, but getting gifts for everyone on your list may be prove to be even more difficult on a military budget. When it comes time to do your holiday shopping, you must set a strict budget and commit to sticking to that budget. While you may not be able to purchase the latest electronic gadgets or give designer clothes to those on your list, you will be able to provide friends and family members with a happy holiday.
Start thinking about the holidays early and spread out your holiday spending throughout the entire year. For more generic gifts, such as traditional Christmas ornaments, or for trimmings
like wrapping paper, bows and Christmas cards, shop after-Christmas sales. The first few days after Christmas you can often score Christmas decorations and wrapping supplies at deep discounts. Think of holiday parties you are regularly invited to and gift exchanges you are invited to participate in and pick up a few ornaments or other decorations to have on hand when it comes time to attend those events next Christmas.
Some large department stores have begun offering layaway around the holidays, some as early as September. Start your Christmas shopping early by putting items in layaway and paying a portion of the total every month until Christmas. Keep in mind, however, that stores typically charge a small fee for using a layaway service. Also, even though you have a few months to pay off the items, you still need to set and stick to your holiday budget. The goal of layaway is to make paying for gifts less of a burden, not to give you more time to overspend.
Finding the Deals
Do your research and to find out which stores have the latest deals on the items on your list. While Black Friday offers great deals, it is not the only time to save. If you do not have access to weekly ads in your local Sunday paper, many stores will e-mail you a copy of their weekly ad or allow you to view it online so you can stay on top of the latest deals and catch a deal when you see one.
The Commissary and Exchange
Take advantage of two resources the military offers too. Both the Commissary and Exchange typically offer lower prices on many of the items on your list. Don’t forget to pick up those generic gifts too, such as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates or small stocking stuffers. If you do not live near a military base with an Exchange, you can also shop online.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a military discount. Some stores put up signs advertising a military discount, but even if a sign is not posted, it never hurts to ask. An extra 10 percent off a purchase can help you get another special gift or be the difference between staying within and going over your budget.
Creativity is the key when doing your holiday shopping on a military budget. While there may not be a substitute for the latest toy, you can make sacrifices and insert creativity in other areas on your list. For example, instead of buying a large gift for someone, put together a gift basket of some of their favorite things. If you know how to knit or crochet, you can make a sweater or scarf for a family member instead of buying an expensive version. Homemade cakes, cookies and candies are an inexpensive way to give gifts to friends and distant family members. Remember, the quality or price of the gift is less important than simply letting your loved ones know you are thinking about them during the holidays.
The Pentagon Channel provides additional tips on keeping holiday spending under control in this video.