5 Ways to Save Money on the Holidays This Year

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Don't let the holidays bust your budget.

Don't let the holidays bust your budget. 

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they're also often the most expensive. And that's problematic if you haven't been saving for them in advance, because the last thing you want is to rack up a ton of debt this season and find yourself in dire financial straits come January. 

Still, there are things you can do to keep your spending to a minimum during the holidays. Here are a few tricks to start with. 

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1. Set a budget

Just as having a budget can help you avoid overspending during the year, so too can it help during the holidays. To set yours up, think about the various expense categories that align with the season -- things like travel, gift-giving, hosting, and decor -- and rank them in order of priority. Next, assess your savings and income to see how much you can afford to spend. From there, assign a spending limit per category on your list so that you know where to top out.

2. Travel at off-peak times

Travel can cost a fortune during the holidays, when everyone is vying for a seat on a plane or train. To minimize your costs, opt for less popular travel dates, if possible. This could mean flying out to see loved ones the Monday before Thanksgiving rather than the day before, and returning home the Tuesday after. Not only will traveling off-peak help you score cheaper rates, but it could also help you avoid credit card blackout dates. And that means you'll have the option to cash out your travel rewards and use them to cover your trip.

3. Give gifts from the heart -- not from the store

Buying gifts can quickly add up, even when you're maximizing coupons and shopping the sales. If you want to trim your costs, consider homemade gifts that total a fraction of what you'll spend at retail locations. If you're crafty, knit your sisters a hat and scarf, or give your best friend a container of baked goods from your kitchen. Your loved ones will likely appreciate the thought and creativity, and they won't care that their gifts didn't come from a store.

4. Regift when possible

Chances are that you're sitting on items from last year's holidays that you've yet to bust into, whether it's the waffle maker from your well-meaning aunt or the wool sweater your cousin gave you that's attractive but just not your taste. Rather than let these items take up space in your closet, see about gifting them to someone on your list who might appreciate them. The same holds true for gift cards you've received in the past -- if you have any you haven't used yet, pass them on in gift form. 

5. Skip the holiday cards

It's nice to send holiday cards to the people on your list. But sending out cards costs money, from the fee to print your own design to the expense of the postage. The beauty of the e-card, on the other hand, is that it allows you to send out warm wishes at minimal cost, if not no cost at all. 

Overspending during the holidays can put you in a bad place financially for the new year. Employ these tips, and with any luck, you'll limit yourself to a reasonable tab after all is said and done.

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