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How To Not Blow The Budget These Holidays

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The holidays are all about gifting, but even the most generous of souls should keep an eye on the bottom line—you don't want to be paying for your giving well into the New Year! Follow these tips to help you keep to your budget this holiday season.

Set Your Budget

a young woman working on some paperwork

First off, you need to determine what you're comfortable spending. Be sure to take into account how you're going to be paying for your gifts this year; if it's all going on a credit card, be sure you're planning on charging an amount that you can pay off immediately or you'll need to factor in monthly interest payments on top of the original amount spent.

Make a List

a woman writing in a notepad

Make a list of who you're buying for and what you're thinking of getting each person. That way you can see how many gifts you have to buy, so you can divide up your money between them and assign each a spending limit. And having an idea on what you'd like to buy for each person will help you find the best deal on products and avoid impulse buying.

Scale Back

a young toddler looking inside a red box

If money's tight this year, don't try to compete with what you've spent in previous years, or with what your best friend is spending. Instead, consider where you can scale back. Your 9-month-old will likely show more interest in the day's gift boxes than in any expensive present you get her, so use this to your advantage and keep her presents minimal. And ask siblings and friends if they'd be open to drawing names instead of buying for each person. Chances are they'd love to buy less this year, too.

Use Cash

a person holding some money

Paying with cash is great way to stick to a budget. Hit the bank to remove your holiday limit in greenbacks, and use that money exclusively for holiday shopping. Be firm with yourself that once it's gone, it's gone—this will help you spend carefully. Bonus: you can sleep easy knowing you won't have to fear astronomical credit card bills come January and February!

Shop Sales

a young woman looking happy at a clothes sale

Deals abound during the holiday season, so be sure to shop carefully! Excluding super-luxury items, you should be able to get most of your gifts on sale or at a discount in the weeks before Hanukkah or Christmas. So if there's a full-priced item you're eyeing, ask a sales clerk if he store has coupons available somewhere, or if he expects it to go on sale anytime soon.

Compare Prices

a young woman looking at her tablet

Your smartphone is your best friend when it comes to holiday saving. Simply download a free bar code scanner app like RedLaser or pic2shop and scan a product’s UPC symbol to find out which retailer has the best price. Another good one: The Price Check by Amazon app lets you compare a product’s price against theirs.

Sign Up for Email Discounts

a young mom and her child doing some online shopping

Get on the email list of all of your favorite stores to stay abreast of sales and deals. Stores often provide unique discount and free shipping codes to their consumer email list; miss out on these easy savings and you’re just leaving money on the table.

Check Coupon Sites

a young woman in a department store while looking at her phone

Frequent online shoppers never buy anything without either a savings or free shipping discount. The way to score these savings? Always fill in the “Promo Code” box when you’re checking out (it’s usually tucked away under the payment information). Search sites such as RetailMeNot.com and Coupons.com to find current codes good for special savings; some retailers are even posting their codes on their homepage for easy access.

Give Your Time

a young mom playing with two toddlers

For some friends, the gift of your time is more valuable than any trinket you might find. Offers to babysit or do small favors are sure to be appreciated by mom friends in need of some alone time. And consider volunteering in your child’s classroom for a few hours in lieu of gifting a teacher yet another coffee mug or plate of cookies.

Set Limits

a young couple wearing santa hats and holding presents

Talk to your partner, family members and friends about setting spending limits or ranges on gifts you’re giving each other. You might feel a little awkward broaching the subject, especially with a seemingly well-to-do friend, but there’s no shame in showing that you’re making fiscally responsible decisions this season. Most people will be glad for the guidelines!

 
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