It's the most wonderful time of the year! Temperatures are dropping, hot cocoa is being made, holiday music is blasting through the speakers — there's nothing like the holiday season. Everyone is in a jolly mood and ready to give back, it's as if we're all overcome by an actual holiday spirit that turns us into happier people.
One thing that isn't as jolly, however, is gift shopping. It doesn't matter if we have large families or small ones, holiday shopping can be stressful and expensive. We want the best for our loved ones so we tend to spend like we're made of money, which winds up putting most people in a financial bind. But just because the holidays are here doesn't mean we have to blow all our cash and wave goodbye to our morals. We have 10 ways to save over the holidays that may just add a little pep in your step when looking at your bank account.
10 FIRST THINGS FIRST: SET A BUDGET
You've heard this every time the holidays roll around but it's for good reason. Setting a budget and sticking to it is what will get you through the holidays.
Make a spreadsheet or keep notes in your phone as you spend. Whenever you buy something for the holidays, make a note of the total and make sure not to go over budget. That being said, surprise pop-ups do happen over the holidays so give yourself some wiggle room just in case.
9 OR YOU CAN OPEN A HOLIDAY SPENDING ACCOUNT
This is a brilliant idea. Most bank accounts have options for short-term and long-term savings. While long-term savings may be reserved for your dream home or your kids' college tuition, your short-term spending can be designated for the holidays.
Throughout the year, add $20 (or a realistic amount you're okay with) every time you're paid (or every other paycheck). Over the year, that total will grow and by the time the holidays come, you already have money set aside for the special occasion without breaking the bank.
8 MAKE CUTBACKS IN OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER
November and December can be the most expensive months. With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Year's Eve, there's a ton to celebrate. There are holiday parties, trips to see family and friends, and of course, a lot of gifts to buy.
To prepare for the holidays, it's smart to cut expenses a month or two beforehand. Whether this means cooking more instead of spending money on take-out or fine-tuning some bills around the house, it's smart to stay ahead of the game so that there's wiggle room come December.
7 OR GET A HEAD START
If you're a planner, getting a head start on the holidays is no big deal and a smart way to go about that is through your credit card. Using your credit card wisely means getting points, deals, and cashback.
It also means you don't need to pay it off until a certain date. If done correctly in the proper cycle, you can pay off your holiday bills month by month instead of all at once.
6 KEEP TRACK OF DEALS AND COUPONS
Some parents spend their Saturday mornings planning their gift-giving attack. How much do all the gifts we want to buy really cost and can they be cheaper? Well, with the help of coupons, holiday deals, and even sites like Groupon, deals are happening every minute around the holidays.
So before you go out and buy something, do a quick Google search to see what deals you could be missing out on. After all, why buy full-price when we can save a little? Doing this may be a little time consuming but it's totally worth it and can help you save in the end.
5 SPEND LESS ON DECORATIONS
We know how special Christmas decorations are but they really do add up. It seems like families buy new decor every year, adding more and more glitter and lights to their homes than years prior. And while there's nothing wrong with having your home look like a Hallmark movie, money spent on holiday decorations could easily go towards gifts.
If you really want a few more pieces of decorations, head to the dollar stores or thrift shops for the lowest prices.
4 TAKE A NOTE FROM SECRET SANTA FOR FAMILY MEMBERS
Secret Santa isn't just a game you play at work with your co-workers or with your friends at a little Christmas party, it can also be used at home, too. Instead of buying gifts for all your family members, hold a meeting and suggest doing Secret Santa instead.
There's no need to buy gifts for every aunt, uncle, and sibling. Instead, pull a name out of a hat and stick to buying a great gift for one person. This way, most of your time and energy can go into buying gifts for your own children.
3 FORGO TRAVELING AROUND THE HOLIDAYS
People all over the world travel throughout the holidays. It's a time of being with loved ones and sharing memories together. And while that's all sweet and warm, traveling throughout the holidays really adds up; it doesn't matter if you're flying or driving.
On the flip side, if you and your family plan a holiday getaway instead of staying home, those vacations also add up. If you still want to do a little something with the family, try planning a staycation instead. Find a nearby resort to go to or spend the day skiing. The holidays are only expensive if we make them expensive.
2 THE 'ENVELOPE BUDGET'
Have you ever heard of the envelope budget before? It may sound dated but it's a fantastic way to stay on budget. Instead of constantly using your credit or debit card—not even realizing how much you're spending on a daily basis—take the money you want to designate for holiday shopping and place it in an envelope.
This way, you can actually see your cash, know where it's going to, and see how much you have. Sometimes having something tangible and visual is better than plastic.
1 THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT
Knowing what to get for your loved ones can be tough. It's even hard to gauge how much a gift truly is until you start browsing for it. But this is where our electronics come in hand. There are plenty of apps out there that can help us with tracking, spending, gift-buying, and even deals on the gifts we're looking for.
If you do your homework, there are apps out there who alert you when something you're eyeing is at a lower price. Mom or dad can use that notification as a chance to jump the gun and buy it while saving time and money.