It’s almost impossible to make it through the holidays without facing at least one potential budget-buster.
Whether it’s taking a family trip, hosting a celebration or simply getting all of your loved ones a gift, the spending opportunities in November and December are seemingly endless.
If you’re tired of feeling like your finances are doing too much giving and not enough receiving this time of year, we understand. These tips can help you save money while still making the most of the holidays.
Plan as far ahead as you can: This is particularly important if you’re flying somewhere or will need a hotel room. Rates can spike around the holidays, so make your reservations early. And, consider reserving off-site parking near the airport. Those spots are usually a lot less expensive than airport lots, but they fill up.
Pick the right days: Traveling on peak days, such as the day before Thanksgiving, can result in higher prices. If you have a short trip, a departure on the morning of the holiday may still get you there in time — and potentially save you money.
Use technology: Once you’ve booked your flights and rooms, online services such as Yapta.com can monitor price movements to be sure you got the best deal. If there’s a price drop, you might be eligible for a refund of the difference.
Holiday Cards and Gifts
Buy early: Picking up gifts throughout the year will allow you to take advantage of sales and avoid costly last-minute purchases. If you give gift cards, check for money-saving deals, such as a free $20 gift card when you buy a $100 card, from individual stores and warehouse clubs.
Buy late: When it comes to holiday cards, however, purchasing them after the holiday season (to use the following year) often will save you 50 percent or more.
Look online: Many sites offer free shipping around the holidays, and, in some instances, gift-wrapping as well. If you’re purchasing gifts for out-of-town family or friends, you can have them shipped directly, avoiding the long lines at the post office.
Limit your list: Many families draw names each year so they’re responsible for buying a gift for only one person. Other families create different traditions, such as limiting gifts to one book or movie per person, to reduce the gift-buying load.
Save paper — and postage: If you typically send a holiday letter, you can send it electronically to save on postage. If you don’t want to give up your paper cards, consider postcards, which cost less to send.
Clean your house: No, not just because you have company coming over — you’ll often find holiday items and decor from last year that you’ve forgotten about. The more you find, the less you have to buy.
Ask for help: Even if you’re hosting a gathering, you don’t have to take it all on yourself. A potluck-style party, where guests share their favorite holiday dishes, is a great way to spread the workload (and financial responsibility) among many people.
Be safe: Whether you’re hosting a party or attending one, have a designated driver or keep phone numbers or apps for ride services handy. That’s mainly about safety, of course, but the financial costs associated with a DUI would put a real dent in anybody’s holiday budget.
Remember, the best holiday memories usually come from spending time with family and friends, not from gifts. So, focus more on people and less on things this year. It will help keep your spending under control — and may just reduce your holiday stress, too.