The holiday season can be a wonderful time, with its festive decorations, delicious cookies and fun times spent with family and friends. Our wallets and purses, on the other hand, may not enjoy this time of year quite as much. From shopping for gifts to getting ready for holiday feasts, most of us end up spending a pretty good chunk of change. In fact, as Gallup reports, the average American expects to spend $781 on Christmas this year, which is up from $704 last season.
Fortunately, spending a ton of money you may or may not have does not have to be an inherent part of the holiday season. With some pre-planning, research and holiday-related homework, it is possible to put some pretty nice gifts under the tree without breaking your budget.
Sign up for Email Alerts
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are typically chock-full of great deals. In order to get a good handle on what sales are coming up, you might want to sign up for email alerts from major retailers. This will save you the hassle of having to look up each store online or shuffle through your newspaper looking for the latest ads. This can be a great way to score some terrific prices on prime gifts for your family and friends, all from the comfort of home.
Check for Discounts Before You Buy
A lot of online retailers will show a Promo Code or similar box during the checkout process. If you don’t have one handy, before you click “submit my order,” open up another window and search for one online. And you can use eCoupons to score the best deals.
Make a List, Check It Twice
One of the best ways to save money during the holidays is to write down a thorough list of everyone you hope to shop for, and how much you are willing to spend for each person. As you are compiling your list, don’t forget recipients like your kids’ teachers, your neighbors and even your pets. In addition to people, also add in allowances for holiday-related items like wrapping paper, tape, cards and postage.
Budget, and Stick to It
Once you have your list ready and the projected amounts, add everything up and see if your total fits the budget that you had in mind. If the total is higher than you anticipated — and in many cases it will be — it’s time to start trimming the amount you spend on some or all of the recipients.
Use a budgeting app like Mint. Not only is this tool helpful during the holidays, it can help you stay on track and save more money during the entire year. Keep an extra close eye of all of your credit and bank statements throughout the season, as identity theft runs rampant while everyone is in their shopping frenzy. If you’d like to hand off the responsibility, consider a service like Lifelock to keep tabs.
Look for Gifts in Unlikely Places
If you are hoping to buy your neighbor a nice bottle of wine for Christmas, you might be tempted to head to local winery or gourmet food shop to find what you are looking for. But as In Charge notes, it is very possible to find really nice items and prices—including some really good wine labels—at your local grocery store. Some larger supermarkets also have toy sections, where you might be surprised to find the Lego set your daughter is pining away for at half price, or the Play-Doh assortment you wanted to get for your nephew.
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