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How to save money this holiday season

Discover clever and practical ways to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.

December 12, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 12
A woman sets a table with holiday decorations.

The holiday season is synonymous with joy, family, and yes, sometimes a bit of financial stress. But guess what? It doesn't have to be that way! You can sail through this festive season with your wallet intact, and I'm here to show you how.

Plan Ahead and Budget

Getting your finances in order before the holiday rush is like giving future you a big, warm hug. Sit down, look at your expenses, and set a realistic budget. It's not just about being thrifty; it's about being smart with your money. Start by listing your expected expenses: gifts, decorations, food, travel, and don't forget those little extras that always pop up. Once you have a clear picture, allocate a specific amount to each category. And here's the key: stick to it! If you find a great deal that's under budget, save the difference. It might be tempting to spend it, but trust me, your January self will thank you. Plus, planning ahead means less impulse buying, which is often where budgets go off the rails.

Add A Personal Touch

There's something incredibly special about receiving a gift made with love. Whether it's baked goods, a knitted scarf, or a hand-painted mug, homemade gifts carry a personal touch that money can't buy. Not only do these gifts save money, but they also add a unique and heartfelt element to your holiday giving. Think about the talents and skills you possess. Are you a wizard in the kitchen? Whip up some festive cookies or a batch of fudge. Love crafting? Create custom ornaments or hand-sewn stockings. The internet is brimming with DIY gift ideas for every skill level. Remember, it's not about the monetary value of the gift, but the thought and effort you put into it. Plus, the experience of creating something from scratch is incredibly fulfilling and fun!

Embrace Potluck Gatherings

Why shoulder the entire burden of a festive feast? A potluck party is not only budget-friendly but also brings a delightful variety of dishes to the table. Plus, it's a great way to enjoy the company of friends and family in a relaxed setting. Everyone brings a dish, which means less stress and expense for you, and it gives everyone a chance to showcase their favorite holiday recipes. It's also a great opportunity to try new dishes and enjoy a diverse spread. To make it even more fun, you can set a theme for the potluck or have a recipe exchange. And remember, potlucks aren't just about the food; they're about the experience of coming together, sharing, and creating holiday memories.

Hunt for Deals

Sales are your best friend during the holidays. Keep an eye out for discounts and clearance sales. Pro tip: subscribing to newsletters and using price comparison tools online can lead to some serious savings. This also involves a bit of strategy. Start monitoring prices well in advance. Sometimes, what seems like a great Black Friday deal might have been cheaper a few weeks earlier. Use apps and websites that track price history to ensure you're actually getting a good deal. Don't forget about cashback websites and browser extensions that can provide additional savings. Moreover, consider buying in bulk for items you know you'll use, especially when hosting or giving similar gifts to multiple people. And always remember, a sale is only a good deal if it's something you actually need.

DIY Decorations

Unleash your creativity with DIY decorations! It's a fun activity that the whole family can get involved in. Plus, it adds a unique and personal charm to your home. You don't have to be an artist to make beautiful decorations. Use natural materials like pinecones, branches, and leaves for a rustic look. Or repurpose old materials into something new. Old jars can become candle holders, and a bit of paint can transform everyday items into holiday masterpieces. Involve the kids by having them make paper snowflakes or ornaments. It's a great way to spend quality time together, and the results are decorations with a story and sentimental value that you can't find in a store.

Reconsider Travel Plans

Traveling during the holidays can be expensive. If possible, consider celebrating at home or planning a staycation. You'll be surprised at how refreshing a holiday spent locally can be. If you're longing for a change of scenery, explore your local area. There might be holiday events, light displays, or natural beauty spots that you haven't had a chance to appreciate yet. If staying home isn't an option, look for alternative travel methods. Maybe a road trip with family or friends could be more cost-effective and fun than flying. Also, consider renting a house or apartment instead of staying in a hotel. This not only saves money but often provides a more homely and comfortable experience. Remember, the holidays are about who you spend them with, not where you spend them.

Use Reward Points and Cashback Offers

Been racking up those reward points and cashback offers all year? Now's the time to use them! They can significantly reduce the cost of gifts and holiday shopping. Many credit cards offer bonus points for certain types of purchases, so make sure to use the right card for the right purchase. Also, look into redeeming your points for gift cards, which can be used for holiday shopping or given as gifts themselves. It's a smart way to stretch your budget further without compromising on the quality or quantity of your holiday spending. Additionally, if you're shopping online, use cashback websites and browser extensions to get a percentage of your purchase back. Every little bit adds up, and you could end up with a nice nest egg of savings after the holidays.

Think of Fun Ways to Gift

Instead of buying gifts for everyone, why not organize a Secret Santa? It's a fun way to ensure everyone gets a gift without everyone having to buy a gift for everyone. Each person draws a name and buys a gift for just that person. You can set a budget limit to ensure that no one feels pressured to spend too much. Secret Santa can be done within families, among friends, or even at the workplace. It adds an element of surprise and excitement to gift giving, and it's always fun to guess who your Secret Santa might be. Plus, it takes the stress out of having to find perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

Quality Time Over Expensive Outings

Remember, the best memories often come from simple moments. Opt for activities that cost little to nothing, like watching holiday movies, going for a winter walk, or playing board games. You don't need to spend a lot of money to make the holidays special. Sometimes, the most meaningful moments come from simply being together. Have a movie marathon with your favorite holiday films, complete with homemade popcorn and hot chocolate. Or, bundle up and go for a walk to enjoy the winter scenery. These simple pleasures often lead to the most heartfelt memories and remind us what the holiday season is really about.

Recycle and Reuse

Last year's decorations and wrapping paper can be just as stunning this year. Being resourceful with what you already have is not only good for your wallet but also for the planet. Before you rush out to buy new decorations, take a look at what you already have. Often, with a little creativity, you can give old decorations a new lease on life. The same goes for gift wrapping. Reuse gift bags, boxes, and even wrapping paper. If you're feeling crafty, you can make your own wrapping paper using brown paper and stamps or drawings. Not only is this approach eco-friendly, but it also adds a personal touch to your gifts.

As the holiday season wraps up, remember it's all about the love, laughter, and memories made. Saving money doesn't mean skimping on the fun. It's about making smart choices that let you enjoy the holidays to the fullest without the looming worry of an empty wallet. So go ahead, embrace these tips, and watch your holidays transform into an occasion that's as joyous as it is budget-friendly!

*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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