The holidays are right around the corner and while this season can be filled with fun, family, parties, celebrations and gifts, it can also be a time of financial stress as well. With family in town, extra meals to prepare, and lots of holiday baking going on, we use to really go over our usual grocery budget during the months of November and December. Between what usually ended up being a close to $200 Publix trip before Thanksgiving and another couple hundred dollars spent on our annual Christmas party, we quickly realized after our first year of marriage that we needed to plan/budget better for holiday season grocery spending.
If you entertain a lot during the season an/or play host to family and friends, it may not be possible to stay completely within your normal grocery budget (for us that is $80 a week for all household purchases). But it is possible to spend less by planning ahead and shopping smart. Here are a few of the things we start doing as early as the beginning of October to make our holiday meals and parties more affordable.
#1: Plan Your Menu Ahead Of Time
This may seem like an obvious thing to do but what I am really talking about is planning weeks, maybe months ahead. You don't have to get crazy with the specifics but it is good to know what meat, sides and appetizers you plan to serve because you can then purchase items when they are on sale and/or have a coupons. Do you serve Turkey every year on Christmas day? Then maybe purchase one the week after Thanksgiving and stick it in your freezer for later. We always serve Cheesy Potatoes at our Christmas party each year so when I see them BOGO with coupons at Publix in October I grab the four bags I know I will need and save them.
Things like chips, salsa, mixed nuts, sodas, baking supplies, and more can be purchased even a few months in advance when you see a great price and saved for holiday entertaining. Buying ahead not only saves you money because you bought on sale but it can also be rolled into your weekly shopping budget so that you don't have to spend so much out of pocket right before the event. Have to buy everything the day before a dinner or party means that you have to pay whatever full price is at the time and that can add up fast.
Obviously certain things like fresh produce and some dairy products can't be bought too ahead of time but buy saving on other menu items you will hopefully free up some of your budget to purchase those things week of.
#2: Use Money Off Total Purchase Coupons ($X/$XX)
Many of us already use coupons like the $5/$30 Winn Dixie coupons from Enjoy the City booklets but the holiday season brings lots of these coupons. Target ads, Publix ad, drugstore ads and other grocery stores will often run money off total purchase coupons around the holidays. Most of these coupons are usually for when you purchase a certain dollar amount but many times that dollar amount is for your total before coupons which means that your out of pocket can still be lower than the total requirement minus the money off.
Publix also allows you to stack a Publix money off coupon with a competitor money off coupon too allowing you to save even more. With many of us making bigger than normal grocery trips during the holidays it won't be too hard to hit the $50-$100 total purchase price before coupons that many of these require. I love to use these on items like meat and produce that don't often have sales or coupons to help bring down the cost of those items.
#3: Save On The Basics
You may not be able to find everything you need for holiday meals on sale or with a coupons. Specialty ingredients, fresh items, wine and beer aren't often discounted so you probably will have to end up paying full price. So help offset the cost of these things, I try to save on the basics.
Saving on paper products, dry goods, household items and toiletries can free up cash to be spent on other things. If you are having house guests, it is even more important to stock up and save on these kinds of items so you don't end up having to run out on Thanksgiving morning to the only store open in town to pay full price for toilet paper or toothpaste.
Since paper products are easy to store and don't have an expiration date so you can stock up as early as you like if you find a good sale. I actually buy all my disposable plates, napkins, cups and silverware for our holiday party the year before when they are on clearance. I pack them away with the holiday decorations so that when I take things out to decorate, I just put those paper products in the pantry and don't have to spend full price on them before our party.
#4: Visit Different Stores
Even though I am guilty of doing the majority of my grocery shopping at one store (Publix), when shopping for holiday parties I try my best to get to a few different stores. It is unlikely that everything you need will be on sale/with a coupon at one grocery store. I try to plan out my shopping using the current sale ads for a few stores (for me its usually Walmart, Target and Publix) and then attempt to grab the best deals at each store. Planning ahead (tip #1) really helps with this.
Store promos, money off coupons, BOGO sales and clearance racks vary from store to store. By taking advantage of the best deals in each store you can maximize your budget. Since most traditional holiday items go on sale at least once sometime during November or December, shopping a few different stores will help you make sure you catch the sale.
#5; Look For In Store Promos
Gift card deals, items with purchase deals, and "Buy Theirs, Get Ours" promos are much more common during the holiday season. Be sure to take advantage of these when the occur on items you need.
Target is famous for offering $5 and $10 gift card deals or "Buy This, Get That FREE" year round but they seem to really pick it up in the holiday months. Publix occasionally has a promo where you get their brand item for free when you buy a name brand. Last year their had this promo with items like chocolate chips, condensed milk and other baking items which was great because I was able to stock up for some holiday baking at half the price.
Often these store promos may involve hard to coupon items like meat, deli items or produce. And for other types of items you can usually combine store or manufacture coupons with the deal to make it even better.
What are you favorite tips for saving money on holiday entertaining?
Want to learn more about couponing? Check out the posts below!