Saving Time and Money This Holiday Season

The holiday season is fast upon us. With so many demands on our time (there are just so many cookies to eat, it’s hard to know where to start!), and demands for our money, it’s no wonder that we’re all looking for a few extra ideas to make the holiday season run more smoothly. Give these a try:

1. Go generic

Keep a stock of generic gifts on hand. Picture frames, nonperishable gift baskets, or ornaments can help you provide for unexpected guests or holiday party invitations, so you won’t have to rush out and buy presents at top dollar.

2. Keep it in the family

Join with other friends or family members to purchase big gifts, or give a family gift rather than individual gifts. A special meal for the whole family or a toy that both adults and children can enjoy may be just what Santa ordered.

3. Draw names

If you belong to a big family or have lots of friends, suggest drawing names so that each person only has to buy one gift. Or, only give gifts to the children in the family.

4. Consider the trade-offs

As you shop, remember that your money is limited. If you’ve been saving for a vacation, consider whether you’d like to dip into those funds for a more extravagant holiday season, or whether you’d rather cut back a little during the holidays so you can have fun the rest of the year as well.

5. Bunch your lunch

To make your holiday shopping more efficient, ask your boss if you can take a longer lunch one day each week during the holiday season, and cut your lunch short the other days to make up for it. That will let you go shopping during the day, so you can spend important time with your family at night.

6. Let your fingers do the shopping

Look for shopping bargains at your favorite Internet sites or at an auction site. There are some sites that do the price comparison for you, so you’ll know you are getting the best deal possible. Shop early to allow extra time for shipping.

7. Prepare for next year right after the holiday

Buy all of your decorations, gift wrap, and cards for next year at this year’s post-holiday sales.

8. Shorten your gift list

Is it really necessary to buy everyone on your list a present? Consider sending a thoughtful holiday card or e-mail, or even writing a family newsletter to update everyone about the past year.

9. Next year, pay Santa first

Set up a holiday savings plan. After paying off this year’s bills, put aside $50 to $100 a month for next year’s holiday presents. You’ll emerge from next year’s holiday rush debt-free.

10. Decorate on the cheap

Instead of splurging on holiday knickknacks, use your ingenuity to decorate inexpensively. You might buy wide colored velvet ribbon at a craft store and tie bows on everything from doorknobs and banisters to candlesticks.

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