7 Ways to Save Money During the Holidays

You may think it’s the most wonderful time of the year, what about your wallet?

The leaves are changing colors, temperatures are cooling, and fall is in the air. And although Christmas carols aren’t on the radio yet, the holidays are just around the corner.

You may be looking forward to the decorations, the gifting, and the hot chocolate. But what about your budget? In 2014, the average American spent more than $800 during the holiday season. That doesn’t include the cost of Thanksgiving! If you aren’t hosting, you are likely traveling for the holidays, and domestic airline tickets can range from $300 to $400 or more, depending on when you book.

That’s a significant amount of extra cash to come up with — especially if you wait too long to start saving. Here are seven things you can do to slash your holiday budget — while still keeping your holiday cheer.

Remember the True Meaning of the Holidays

Before you even hit up Pinterest to dream up decorating ideas, take a minute to think about the true meaning of the season. Although you might feel like a perfectly set table and luxurious gifts are essential, in fact, family, friends, and memories are even better.

If finances are tight, don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep in mind that memories are about what you do, not what you buy, and remember that monetary gifts and expensive decorations do not make or break the spirit of the holidays.

Consider Nonmonetary Gifts

In an effort to cut expenses this December, consider giving others nonmonetary gifts. Can you give the gift of your time? Perhaps offer to watch your nieces or nephews so your sibling can enjoy a date night. Or, get in touch with your crafty side and DIY your own gifts. Assess who you are giving a gift to and what they would truly value. Sometimes, the best gifts aren’t things.

Review Your List

Often, we get in the habit of giving gifts to the same people year after year just because it’s holiday time, but in reality, we don’t maintain a close relationship with them during the rest of the year. Take some time to assess your shopping list and cut it down, if possible.

Also, consider drawing names. This is especially helpful for large families or groups of friends. Instead of giving every single person a gift, play Secret Santa and pick names. This will help you rein in the spending and save money.

The same goes for your invite list for Thanksgiving. You don’t need to invite every distant relative and casual neighbor. Keep it close, and you may even end up having a better time with a small, intimate group.

Focus on the Kids

The holidays are magical, especially for children. Save money by focusing on the kids instead of every adult in your life. Choose affordable gifts for each day of Hanukkah, or grab small, unique stocking stuffers, handpicked for each of your little ones.

Or, let them make their own table settings or centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table, which will save you money in the long run. Another option? Forgo traveling for Thanksgiving this year and spend it with just your spouse and the kids — or host a potluck “Friendsgiving.”

Give Gifts People Actually Want

Don’t buy gifts just to say you did. Almost three-quarters of Americans admit they don’t like the gifts they are given. So, use your money wisely and purchase things people actually want. If you are unsure what to buy some people on your list, ask their spouses or close friends what they may like.

Also, before you buy anything, check the web for coupons. Use sale sites like RetailMeNot to find coupon codes or EBates to earn cash back on your purchases. Do your homework and make those dollars count.

Set a Budget and Stick to It

Shopping without a budget is a recipe for disaster, whether it’s for holiday gifts or your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s easy to justify expensive purchases in the moment. But, you’ll regret it come January when your credit card statement is unreasonably high. Before you set out on your shopping spree, have the following set in stone: Set a budget and stick to it.

  1. What is your total budget for the Thanksgiving meal? What about your travel?
  2. Who is on your gift list?
  3. How much are you spending per person?
  4. What’s your total gift budget?

Knowing these numbers in advance will help you stick to your budget when you’re out shopping.

But remember: Holiday costs don’t stop at gifts. When creating your budget, make sure to include extra holiday items, like wrapping paper, holiday parties, tasty treats, décor, winter activities, and other miscellaneous expenses. You may have your gift budget under control, but don’t forget the additional expenses that could put you in the red zone come January.

Start Saving Now

Start Saving Now
Don’t wait until Elf is on TV to start taking action! Implement these simple tips to save a little bit more each month to avoid financial stress later:

  • Put aside a portion of each paycheck.
  • Take advantage of Black Friday sales.
  • Download money-saving apps and monitor prices.
  • Cut monthly expenses and spending from now until January.
  • Shop with the cash you’ve saved and keep your credit card at home.
  • Cash in credit card reward points.

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