If you're feeling the pinch this year, you're not alone. The gifts, the travel, the feasting -- holiday costs add up pretty quickly for most of us. That's why we gotta keep our eye on the prize, and our bank accounts, and follow some simple tips for saving money during the holidays.
- Don't wait 'til the last minute to shop. When we procrastinate and find ourselves in a rush, we tend to get flustered, forget our budget, and just buy whatever the heck is closest to our fingertips. Make a list, give yourself four or five hours to get it all done, and head to the stores ASAP. Saving yourself from the Christmas Eve dash will also save you money.
- Decorate on the cheap. Yes, fresh garland and a Fraser Fur are nice, fragrant touches, but they can be expensive. Have your kids make some holiday crafts and use those to adorn the house instead. Also, I find an evergreen scented candle goes a long way when my fake, plastic tree just isn't giving off that all-natural aroma.
- Stuff stockings with cheap stuff. No need to go all out with these pre-present time teases. You don't have to spend more than $10 on stocking stuffers kids will absolutely adore -- think washi tape, temporary tattoos, travel games, and a battery-powered toothbrush. And hey, if it doesn't fill up the whole sock, stuff an orange at the bottom. That's what Santa did at my house growing up.
- Combine your shopping trips. There's a lot of driving around you gotta do to get gifts, food, and trees. Save money on gas by doing it all in one go.
- Pay cash. The last thing you want in January is holiday debt. Paying cash will ensure you stay on budget and only spend what you can, when you can.
- Plan a budget-friendly menu. Watch for sales on food items you'll need to make your feast and try to avoid adding anything to the menu that isn't already on the list. Yeah, sure, a bowl of fancy nuts in the living room would be nice, but it's totally unnecessary, not to mention appetite-ruining.
- Give the gift of time. As a gift, offer to babysit while your friends go out on the town, or donate your cooking skills to make your sister's family a delicious dinner, or walk your neighbor's dog for a week. Why spend money when you can spend time?
- Move the holiday. Take advantage of the post-Christmas sales and agree with your partner that you'll shop for each other's gifts after the holiday.
- Save on entertainment. Instead of taking your whole brood to see a movie, search for local holiday light events, or walking tours, or tree-lighting ceremonies that you can all attend for free.
- Remember the spirit of the season. Thoughtful, from the heart presents are always appropriate. Think about who you're buying for, and search sites like Etsy and Pinterest for low-cost or DIY ideas that they'll love.
What are your holiday money-saving tips?
Image via iStock.com/Onfokus