12 Ways You Can Save Money on the Holidays

The holidays always bring on a flurry of emotion. From the relief and delight of finding the perfect Christmas gift for that difficult person on your list to the chaos and stress of cooking up a family feast. There’s no need to add financial stress to that roller coaster of emotions, so here are some ideas to save money on the holidays and  keep this season easier on your wallet:

Save Money on the Holidays with These Tips!

GIFT SHOPPING

1. Use Shopping Apps: Low cost and free apps like Santa’s Bag, Better Christmas List, Redlaser, Gift Professor will give you a serious helping hand in  shopping. They perfect for organizing and keeping track of clothing sizes and fave restaurants, gift budgets, delivery status, etc for the diverse bunch on your shopping list. You can also get deal alerts, countdown reminders and even quizzes to guide you toward the perfect gift.

2. Shop for VIPs Only: If you end up putting coworkers, neighbors, hairdresser, plumber, pizza delivery guy, etc on your Christmas gift list, you will no doubt start to freak out about your holiday gift budget. Write down the VIPs on your gift list, like close family and friends, and for those not on this list think about baking them some cookies, gifting a handmade tree ornament or sending a card.

3. Get Creative: Think you’re stuck in a gift-giving cycle? If you end up giving the same gift to the same people each year, it’s time you mix it up. Check out our Pinterest board for smart gift ideas like free subscriptions, used books, and mixtapes.

LET’S DECORATE

4. Trim down the tree: You don’t have to get the biggest tree in the forest to prove your Christmas spirit. Choose one of the smaller trees in the lot, or if you don’t mind an artificial tree, choose one with color, like a bold white, shimmery silver or rich turquoise, and no one will notice the smaller size. Also, a colorful tree doesn’t need much in the way of ornaments–just throw on some lights and a tree topper, and you’re done!

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5. Time the Sparkly Lights: Connect your outdoor lights and tree lights to a timer so you don’t have to worry about when to turn them off and on again. No need to keep your outdoor lights on more than a few hours each evening, from sunset till midnight or even earlier. If you live in a sunny winter climate, switch to solar-powered Christmas lights.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL

6. Fly smart: First of all, if you haven’t booked your flights yet, do it NOW! Last minute deals are much harder to find during the holidays, so if you know your dates, book your flight ASAP. But also be flexible with your dates—you can often score cheaper tickets if you are willing to fly Dec 24 or Dec 25 because most people won’t want to. Kayak.com is an excellent and user friendly search engine for flights, but also works for hotels and car rentals. Remember to pack smart to avoid the checked in bag and you’ll skip the $50 fee, unless you’re flying with JetBlue, where the first checked in bag is free, or Southwest, which allows you two free checked in bags! This is worth considering if you plan to travel with lots of gifts.

7. Exchange Homes for Christmas: Remember the film “The Holiday” where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swap their homes in London and L.A. during the holiday season? That service actually exists—try reliable sites like LoveHomeSwap.com or Knok.com. If you can find a good deal on a flight ticket, you might just find yourself spending Christmas in Paris or New Year’s in Buenos Aires, living like a local in a cozy house that’s totally free!

8. Hitch a Ride Home: Way more fun and cheaper than taking a flight, bus or driving home alone, hitching a ride back home for the holidays is a great option. Check out the rideshare ads on Craigslist and reliable rideshare sites like Liftsurfer.com and Ridejoy.com, to save on holiday travel.

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FESTIVITIES

9. Orphan Dinner: These types of gatherings are the best way to go if you want to take it easy on your budget. Not only do you save on time and effort, but you and your guests will have a much more interesting variety of food and drinks to choose from. Just be sure to find out in advance what each guest is bringing to prevent overlapping.

10. Get outdoors: Christmas caroling, sledding, ice skating. These activities don’t cost much (or anything) to put together and are excellent group activities if you’re tired of watching Elf and playing cards inside all day.

11. DIY Decor Party: Have everyone bring over scrap materials, random items from the house and even pine cones and pine tree branches, then get crazy creative to make your own wreaths, cards, wrapping paper, centerpieces, and tree ornaments. Consider this eco-friendly and inexpensive party your holiday gift to the planet.

12. Appetizers Only: No need for a banquet of roast goose—the whole idea is to spend time together with your favorite people, so invite them over for wine and cheese, chocolate fondue or Christmas cookies and/or pie. And some homemade mulled wine is always a nice touch to any holiday party.

The holidays seem to be increasingly commercialized each year, and spending less money than your friends do on gifts and décor does not mean you’re being cheap. Just focus on the people in your life who matter to you most, and you’ll find that the holiday budgeting process will unfold naturally.

This article was written by staff writer Suchi Rudra. Her mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Photo: Dandee