Have you been following my “Holiday Budget Challenge” here on TalkingCentsBlog? Check out post #1 and post #2! With today being the day before Christmas Eve, I thought I would calculate all expenses and to see how I did — lo and behold, the Cash Only Challenge was a success. With an original budget of $950 for everything from hosting a holiday party to Christmas gifts and supplies, I came in at $629 even – a savings of $321.
How did I do it: Food/Drink
Actual Spend: $102.58
Savings of: $47.42
I’ve co-hosted a holiday party for the past five years with my roommates. We invite family and friends and provide the majority of the food and drinks for our guests. This year, knowing that I would be participating in this cash-only challenge, I planned my shopping trip ahead of time, from the list to the actual store. I was in charge of the mashed potato bar (a fun hearty side dish that maybe I’ll blog about later!), chicken wings, drink mixers, and our signature celebration shot. Having grown up in the area, I knew that Market Basket’s prices are better than most other grocery stores and planned to arrive at one of their stores during an off-peak hour (4 pm). I also made sure to have a snack before I left — I didn’t want to pick up any unnecessary items just because I was hungry. I maneuvered the aisles and stuck to my list, coming in at $75.58 for the food; in years past, I have spent well over $100 for the practically the same menu items. Deciding that it was a good day to also cross the drinks off the list, I picked up the mixers while at the grocery store and stopped at the liquor store near my house to picked up the alcohol. $27.30 later my menu items were complete!
How did I do it: Gifts
Actual Spend: $497.25
Savings of: $197.75
Though this was a cash-only challenge, I relied heavily on plastic as I did nearly all of my shopping from the comfort of my desk. But don’t fret, I did use “cash” for 3/4 of my purchases — I used my debit card and for those items where I received a better deal using my store card (GAP/Macy’s), I used my credit card during check out and then immediately logged into my online banking to pay the bill. I used the cash-back site Ebates to earn money back on all of my gift purchases. I also used rewards I had earned from various retailers throughout the year to purchase gifts ($30 worth of rewards to the GAP took a bite out of my nephew’s Christmas gift!) and used leftover funds from gift cards shave a few dollars here and there (i.e. I had $2.36 left on AMEX gift card that I used at Hallmark to purchases cards the other day — that $2.36 paid for one card + more!).
How did I do it: Misc.
Actual Spend: $29.17
Savings of: $75.83
I should have looked in my hall closet before making this portion of the budget. I had leftover wrapping paper and ribbon from past Christmases that I was able to pair with the three new rolls I bought and had tape and scissors already in the drawer! After decorating the tree, there was no need for any new ornaments; however, I always budget for them in case there is an incident that leaves us with broken bulbs! I purchased a small package of cards to send to close friends and my nephews at a discount department store that saved me over $15 from the average card store.
Being budget conscious this year helped me save over $300 this year — money I am going to put towards my car payment! I couldn’t be more happier with my success and plan on tracking my spending on various items including the holidays in the new year.