7 Ways to Spend Less this Holiday Season7 Ways to Spend Less this Holiday Season

Gift-giving can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season. After all, finding the perfect gift for your loved one can be a tangible way to show them you care. But when you are operating on a set budget as most of us are these days, it’s important to be smart in your holiday purchases. With a little planning and creativity, you can make your holiday dollars stretch even further.

Here are 7 money-saving tips for your holiday shopping:

1. Plan Ahead

Make a comprehensive list of everyone for whom you’ll be shopping, and set an amount for each so that it fits into your overall budget. Help yourself stick to your plan by using envelopes filled with the right amount of cash when shopping – rather than your debit card or credit card – to avoid the small overages that eventually add up. Make a promise to yourself not to buy anything for yourself while shopping, and avoid the temptations of store credit cards that offer checkout discounts now followed by high-interest payments later.

2. Make Technology Work for You

Utilizing the Internet can help you get more bang for your buck, especially when it comes to special holiday sales and discounts. If you have a brand or store you know you’ll be shopping, look up its social media account then like it on Facebook and follow it on Twitter. Companies often publish special deals just for their online fanbase. Also, search for online coupons and discounts at sites like retailmenot.com and save on shipping costs with FreeShipping.org. You can make running lists on Amazon.com to store items that fit the criteria of your gift list for easy purchasing later.

3. Be Selective

If you have a large family, consider drawing names or even doing a “white elephant” gift exchange. Be sure to set a price limit, so that gifts are comparable. Purchasing for one person as opposed to the entire group helps ensure you can purchase something a bit nicer, rather than spending your money on numerous small tokens that no one really wants. If you need to buy a larger gift for a boss or a parent, why not go in together with co-workers or siblings? Even just $10 a piece from a large group can add up to a nice gift.

4. Create a Christmas Closet

Create your gift list early in the year so that you can keep your eyes peeled for the best-discounted gifts at any time. For example, you might see the perfect sale on golf clubs for your son; grab them at a great price, then store them in your designated Christmas Closet to wrap at a later date. Some retail stores have sales on seasonal items throughout the year, and if you are super-prepared, you can scoop up some excellent deals in January from leftover holiday stock. What a nice feeling to check people off your list at a leisurely rate!

5. Share Your Kitchen

You really can’t go wrong with baked goods and homemade treats, and sites like Pinterest make it easier than ever to find recipes that combine ready-made ingredients – like store-bought candies or cookies – with crafty items to make unique holiday-themed gifts and baskets. Save your money by purchasing your packaging (baskets, bows, or gift bags) at your local dollar store. You can also include bulk items to divide across your gift baskets, like fresh fruit (Cuties oranges are perfect) or salty nuts, to round out your homemade goodies gift basket.

6. Give Your Favorite Things

Popularized by Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episode in which she gives audience members her favorite everyday items, you can take the same approach with your group of friends. Rather than spend $20-30 a pop on each friend to buy each a nice gift, all agree to purchase one of your favorite items (at a set price point) for each member of your group. For example, set a price limit of $10 and pick out your favorite bubble bath, golf balls, fancy chocolates, etc., buying one for each friend (look for buy-one, get-one-free deals to make the most of your price range). If you have five friends, you’ll spend $50 rather than $100 or more. Have a party where everyone exchanges their favorite things; you’ll be surprised at how fun these small gifts can be to purchase and receive.

7. Make a “No Unnecessary Present Pact” (NUPP)

You might feel comfortable talking with your adult friends and family members about forming a light-hearted NUPP; in other words, all agree that, this year instead of gifts, you’ll focus on the more intangible reasons for the season. Spend time together, share a homemade meal, go to a service together, but skip the mall. You all will know you still care, but are choosing to show it with quality time rather than your credit card. Of course, grandchildren are an exception to this rule. ☺

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.