It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—and it’s not even December yet! This time of year, your wallet may seem more empty than normal. Between Secret Santa and the kids’ parties at school, it seems like you’re shelling out money left and right. To keep you from singing “Blue Christmas,” I’m giving you some hacks to help you save money—and stress—this holiday season.
1. Buy discount gift cards.
You can get gift cards on sale. Several websites offer unused gift cards at a discount. You can use them as Christmas gifts or go to the store and use the gift card to buy the present.
2. Send postcards.
You save over 10 cents per card on postage if you send Christmas postcards instead of traditional cards. And there are tons of online merchants who print personalized Christmas postcards for next to nothing. Or, if you’re strapped for cash, go with e-cards.
3. Set a budget.
And not just for gifts either. Think of office parties, gas money to drive to Grandma’s, stocking stuffers, extra pantry items, and gifts for neighbors. You might even want to budget for a meal out once you’ve stuffed yourself with turkey and leftovers too many times.
4. Use cash.
Of course, I don’t want you to use a credit card. Ever. But for Christmas shopping, I don’t even want you to use your debit card. Make the budget and go get cash. That way you won’t be tempted to blow your budget.
5. Shop after Thanksgiving.
For groceries, that is. If Tom Turkey is a part of your Christmas dinner, buy him after Thanksgiving. Turkeys will be on sale. Other seasonal foods (like pumpkin pies) will be on sale too, so if you have room in your freezer, stock up and you can save money.
6. Don’t buy hype.
On Black Friday and Cyber Monday up until Christmas, retailers will offer “great” discounts. Only some of them aren’t so awesome. Compare prices at different stores to find the best deal.
7. Check the scale.
Not for you—for your luggage. If you’re flying over the holidays, weigh your bags before you leave. You can spend upwards of $100 for overweight luggage. And some airlines charge for every bag you check. Know the rules before booking flights.
8. Know your schedule.
Who is coming to your house for the holiday? Once you know who is visiting and how long they’re staying, you can create a meal plan. To save some money, cook meals that will give you leftovers for a couple of days. If your guests don’t like leftovers, they can pay for take-out!
9. Ask your app.
You can use apps like ShopSavvy to do your comparison shopping. Just scan the item’s barcode with your phone, and the app will tell you if you can find that item for less at another store.
10. Ship it flat.
The U.S. Postal Service offers flat-rate boxes in different sizes, so pack as much as you can into a box (within weight limits) and save on shipping. Or take advantage of free shipping offers when you buy online.
11. Shop after Christmas.
If you’re visiting family after Christmas, wait for the post-holiday sales. You could save big bucks with that approach—and Cousin Eddie will never know.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Don’t let shopping or travel or meals take the joy out of the season. Plan ahead, keep a level head, and make wise decisions. Then have yourself a merry little Christmas!