8 ways to save money during the holidays

Dad with daughter on his shoulders decorating the Christmas tree

The holiday season is a time for giving—but it’s also a time for spending. Due to the effects of inflation, the cost of everything has skyrocketed. Higher rates across the board don’t help, either. Despite the obstacles being hurled our way, it’s possible to still make the holiday season merry and bright while saving some cash, too. Here are eight ways you can save money during the holidays.

1. Stick to a budget

Before you begin shopping, create a budget. If you’re one of the savvy shoppers who opened a Holiday Savings account or a short-term certificate of deposit (CD), now’s the time to put those funds to use—but don’t go overboard. Plan how much you’ll spend on gifts, entertaining, travel, and other small expenses, like holiday cards and stamps. You should also add room for extra spending in case you want to treat yourself—or if you unexpectedly receive a gift from a co-worker and need to return the favor.

2. Create a holiday shopping list

It may be the season of giving, but that doesn’t mean you need to give to everyone. Create a holiday shopping list after establishing your budget, and stick to it. Shopping for only those who need gifts is a huge way to save money during the holidays. List the people you need to shop for and how much you plan to spend on their gift. If you’re over budget, the easiest way to trim your budget is by trimming the number of people.

3. Cut spending elsewhere

If you need wiggle room in your budget, cut spending elsewhere, like dining out or streaming services. Let’s face it—you don’t regularly use every streaming platform you subscribe to. Save an extra $10-$20 a month by pausing a couple of streaming services through the holidays, and resume your subscription in January. Or, if you find yourself dining out more often than necessary, save by shopping at the grocery store and planning meals at home.

4. Spend responsibly

When used responsibly, shopping with a credit card can be beneficial during the holidays. If you find a credit card with a great introductory bonus, you may meet the requirements just by checking off your holiday shopping list (depending on your budget, of course). If you’ve already racked up rewards points, you can cash in those points for gifts, airline tickets, or hotels. If you don’t trust yourself to stick within your budget while using a credit card, you can opt for cash. Whatever your budget is, withdraw that from your checking account and use that cash to shop—once it’s gone, it’s gone.

5. Shop strategically

When you shop is just as important as where you shop. Also, think about what you need to purchase. If you’re looking to score deals on TVs and other electronics, pre-Black Friday and Black Friday deals are your best bet. Cyber Monday is great for shopping for clothes and travel deals, and it’s often a repeat of Black Friday offers. As Christmas approaches, many retailers also discount toys and games to avoid getting stuck with them after the holidays. Super Saturday is the Saturday before Christmas and is filled with last-minute deals for those who haven’t finished their holiday shopping yet. These deals can be huge ways to save money during the holidays.

6. Consider non-monetary gifts

Experiences and favors for family and friends can sometimes be more meaningful than material gifts. If your budget is lower this year, opt for non-monetary gifts. Volunteer to watch your sister’s kids so she can have a night out. Or, help an elderly relative with housework and running errands. Even handmade gifts, like scrapbooks or a framed photo of a special memory, can be more meaningful than something expensive.

7. Give the gift of your time

Volunteering can be the greatest gift of all. If you and your family or friends have everything you need, why not volunteer during the holidays instead of exchanging gifts? Help out a local soup kitchen, host a coat drive, volunteer at a nursing home, or help wherever else you’re needed. Just a few hours of volunteering your time can brighten the holidays for dozens of people. If you’re stuck on ideas, posts various volunteer opportunities, and you can filter by category to find something that piques your interest.

8. Celebrate after the holidays

Traveling during the holidays can add up quickly between flights, transportation, and hotels. It can also be stressful and overwhelming due to the sheer volume of people. If you’re visiting family or want to travel during the holidays, celebrate after to help save big on travel costs. You’ll even save on gifts if you wait for post-holiday sales to shop. If you can’t wait until after the holidays to celebrate, try to book in advance and avoid high fares.

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