Tuesday, December 7, 2010

5 Ways to Save Money This Christmas

The holiday season is often characterized by rampant spending (to the point that each year, tons of people go into debt to ensure that their loved ones get everything they desire). You want to provide the beautiful decorations, home-cooked meals, warm atmosphere, and piles of presents that your family expects, but if you don’t have the cash on hand, you could find yourself in real trouble with creditors by the time the New Year rolls around. You may not realize it, but there are actually a lot of ways to save on just about everything you want this holiday season. If you know how to cut back, substitute, and look for the best deals, you stand to have a fantastic holiday without going into debt. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Shop online. Although many stores offer crazy deals from Black Friday on, you can often find even better sales by joining the online community and shopping at your favorite websites. In addition, you may not even have to spring for shipping. If you order several items from the same outlet, you can usually secure free shipping (generally offered for orders that exceed a specific dollar amount) and sometimes even additional savings. Just be sure to look for the padlock icon on the screen to show that the website is secure for ordering.

Stay home. One of the biggest expenses around the holidays comes in the form of travel to visit relatives. Instead of spending beaucoup bucks to see the grandparents over the holidays (when it’s the most expensive), opt to see them at a time of year that’s not so travel-heavy. You can enjoy a quiet Christmas at home without the added stress of waiting in long lines and dealing with delays and cancellations. By the time you book your travel, prices will have dropped considerably.

Get crafty. Whether you’re decorating the house, planning gifts, or sending out seasonal tidings, there’s a way you can design it on a dime. Rather than purchasing everything new, try getting crafty with items found around the house or in nature. To decorate the tree, bedazzle some pine cones with glitter and glue. Or string some popcorn and candy with shiny, seasonal wrappers. For gifts, have the kids create some holiday art projects, make jam with berries from your garden, or find recipes for bath products that can be easily created at home. And for cards, use recycled scrap paper.

Host a potluck. Rather than cooking a dinner for twenty all by yourself (and incurring the expense that goes along with it) ask family and friends to pitch in by providing their favorite side dishes and desserts (while you handle the main course). This way everyone can enjoy a cornucopia of food and no one gets stuck with all the lion’s share of cooking and cost.

Set limits. If you find, year after year, that your spending on gifts goes unchecked, then a good way to cut back is to set yourself a strict limit. For your closest family members (spouse, kids) you could limit yourself to, say, $50. For other special family (parents, siblings) you may want to set a budget of around $20. And for everyone else you’re obliged to get gifts for, consider $5-10 gift cards from Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or a local equivalent, or simply give holiday treats from your own kitchen for something more personal.

Kyle Simpson writes for  grocery store coupons where you can get printable chipotle coupons and find an assortment of deals for other popular restaurants.
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