How to Have a Holly-Jolly, Budget-Friendly Holiday Season

The holidays are in full swing, and if you’re like a lot of us, your wish list includes a joyful holiday season without the aftermath of an empty bank account. Yes, holidays are expensive, but you don’t have to wake up New Year’s Day feeling like the Grinch stole your wallet. If setting a budget and sticking to it sounds complicated and time consuming, take heart! We’ve created this simple guide for having a holly-jolly holiday season without breaking the bank.

Saving Money on Gifts

If you start by listing who you’re buying gifts for, setting a budget for each person, and resist waiting until the last minute to shop, you’ll make smarter purchasing decisions and experience less “convenience over price” purchasing regrets. Don’t forget, the gifts alone aren’t all that will cost you. Be sure to leave room in your budget for additional costs like gift wrap, cards, and shipping. This strategy is particularly helpful if you have a large family or plan on gifting coworkers and friends.

Here’s how you can save on gifts:

* For large groups of family, friends, or coworkers, assign a name to each person for whom they’ll be responsible gifting. Set price limits and submit wish lists, so it isn’t a complete guessing game. Instead of buying gifts for every cousin, neighbor, or coworker, you can buy Uncle Mike a toolset and a gift card for Linda in Accounting and call it a day!

* Wouldn’t grandma love an Amazon Echo? Debatable, but instead of buying expensive gifts such as these by yourself, ask family members to pitch in and split the cost. Warning: Alexa might become grandma’s new favorite.

* Take advantage of holiday sales, promo codes, and coupons. Not about the Black Friday or Christmas Eve frenzy? Shop [from home] till you flop [sideways on the couch] online! Pro Tip: While online shopping, get the promo codes for discounts, free shipping, and more by subscribing to the retailer’s email list. You can always unsubscribe later.

* If you can’t fight the, “so many gifts to buy, so little time… and money,” feeling, spend less of BOTH by making affordable gifts in bulk. Whether you’re more of a Crafty Carol or a Glue-and-Done Gary, the DIY gift options are endless.

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Saving Money on Gatherings

Tis the season to do the most for the ones you love. The good news is, holiday festivities can be budget-friendly, too! Take note: depending upon the type of event you’re hosting or attending, expenses such as outfits, gift exchanges, food and drinks, and transportation costs can add up quickly. Check out this holiday gathering prep list to help you estimate costs and see where you can cut down.

Here’s how you can save on gatherings:

* If you’re hosting an event and trying to save money, don’t rely solely upon yourself to feed the masses. Host a potluck, ask friends and family to bring a dish or drinks to share, or order in bulk ahead of time and pick up food for your event. If you want to be chef AND save money, check out these delicious, budget-friendly holiday recipes.

* Whether you’re hosting a party for friends, family, kids, or all the above, entertain your guests for cheap! White Elephant gift exchanges are always fun, but don’t ask your guests to spend more than $10 on a gift. If you’re looking for fun, cheap games for all ages, check out these holiday party games. * Need the perfect Ugly Christmas Sweater? Do it yourself! Need decorations for a holiday party you’re hosting? You can do that yourself, too! Make DIY décor, gift wrapping, holiday cards, and more!

Saving Money on Travel

Traveling over the holidays isn’t just a hassle, it can be a huge financial burden. Planning on flying over the holidays? If so, don’t forget about the costs of bags, parking, meals, and transportation to and from the airport, on top of the ticket price. If you’re driving, use this site to estimate your gas expense. When budgeting your travel expenses, be sure to add the cost of hotel accommodations, as well.

Some ways to save on travel: * Book your flights early and save. If you’re shopping around, search in incognito mode on your Chrome browser or clear your cookies as you go so airlines and booking engines won’t raise prices while you’re comparing flights (this is a real thing). Check out online discount travel sites. If for some reason your flight ends up becoming cheaper after purchasing, Yapta can help you get a refund.

* Instead of driving yourself and parking at the airport, get a ride. Airport parking prices take a steep hike around the holidays due to demand. See if a friend can drive you or compare the round-trip cost of a cab or Uber to the price to park and you might find it cheaper to ride.

* Most people want to get to their destinations the day before a holiday, which makes those flights particularly expensive. Check out flights the morning of the holiday to see if better deals are available – and tell any skeptical relatives it’s better for your budget.

As you can see, it’s not particularly difficult to have an affordable holiday season – it just requires a little extra planning. Once you have a budget in place, it’s time to take action. Because the sooner you do, the sooner you can begin singing fa-la-la-la-la into the New Year, debt free!

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