25 Easy Ways to Save Money During the Holidays
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But unfortunately it’s also the most expensive.
Between overzealous gift giving and the ho-ho-holiday happy hours, December can do a real number on your wallet. Keep your checking and savings account merry, bright, and out of the red with these 25 easy ways to save money this month.
- Create a budget. If you don’t have a plan for how you spend your dough, now’s a good time to start. Calculate income vs. expenses between now and the end of the year, then define your holiday spending limit.
- Make a list. Once you know what you can spend, allocate it down to the last peppermint mocha. Include a cushion for unexpected stuff.
- Stick to cash. Credit and debit cards make it easy to overspend. Consider withdrawing your holiday budget amount in cash, then using the envelope system to manage your various expenses.
- Get rewarded. If you must use plastic (and you plan to pay it off immediately), use cards with cash-back, travel, or other purchase incentives. Check out this guide to the best credit cards for holiday spending.
- DIY with caution. Making gifts can save you money, but make sure you factor in the cost of materials (plus a few failed test runs, if it’s your first go).
- Gift your time and talents. Photography, babysitting, dog walking, cooking, and teaching someone a new skill all make great gifts.
- Be sale savvy. While it may seem like everything is on sale in December, some of the best deals can be found in electronics and cookware.
- Buy one, get one free. Check this list for retailers that offer free gift cards with purchase.
- Cut travel costs. Follow the tricks for getting great travel deals, such as booking on the weekend and targeting Tuesday and Wednesday as travel days.
- Ship for free. Over 800 retailers (and counting) offer free shipping, no minimums, and delivery by Christmas Eve—all part of Free Shipping Day on December 16.
- Comparison shop. Use a site like Pricegrabber to find the best price on more expensive items. Also, install Priceblink on your browser—it will reveal better deals on other sites.
- Abandon your cart. Leave items in your online cart for a day or two, and some retailers will email you a discount code to try to close the sale. You’ll need to register with the sites first, so they have your email address.
- Buy with confidence. Use Slice Drops to monitor your online purchases and receive alerts if prices drop. You may get a refund for the difference. Yapta and Tingo do the same thing for airfare and hotel purchases.
- Repair—don’t replace. Eyeing a new pair of shoes for your office holiday party? Fixing up an old pair will save you a bundle (and they’ll look good as new).
- Embrace the potluck. When you want to throw a holiday party on the cheap, ask guests to bring their fave winter dishes or a bottle of wine.
- Stick with four. The Four-Gift Christmas Challenge keeps kids’ gifts in check—instead of a pile of presents give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
- Do Secret Santa. Got a big family? Suggest a gift exchange where everyone chooses one recipient instead of buying presents for all.
- Upcycle. Turn your trash into a loved one’s treasure with one of these 221 cool upcycle projects.
- Enter to win. There are 47 opportunities to win an unforgettable winter vacation on this list of international travel sweepstakes.
- Save on gift cards. Use a site like Cardpool or Gift Card Granny to buy discounted gift cards as presents or to do your own shopping.
- Embrace free stuff. Google “holiday events in (your city)” and look for the listings that offer free food, drinks, and other merriment.
- Get a holiday side hustle. From folding sweaters to answering customer service calls at home, there are plenty of flex work gigs to choose from this time of year (some with perks, such as employee discounts).
- Cash in. Don’t need another sweater? Let well-meaning family members know that cash presents are the preference this season. Ask them for help with student loans or your kid’s 529 college savings plan.
- Start saving for next year. Set up an automatic savings account with an app like Dobot, so you can easily save for next year’s holiday gifts.
- Log off. It’s tough to resist temptation with the onslaught of holiday marketing from social media and other sites. Give yourself and your wallet a break, and spend more quality time with friends in person. It’s good for the soul.
Related: Your One-Minute End-of-Year Debt Payoff Checklist
Recommended: How to Create Epic Memories With your Partner on a Budget
Got a holiday savings tip we missed? Share it in the comments section, and we’ll add to this post!