It's easy to get caught up in the holiday season and spend a little too much money. Celebrating doesn't have to mean debt.
Control your cash
Check out these ways to tame the holiday frenzy:
- Make (and stick to) a budget. Money can fly out of your wallet fast for gifts, special meals, decorations and travel. Plan ahead of time how much you're going to spend on each category, and then stay in that range.
- Take inventory. Don't rush out to buy wrapping paper before checking to see if there's a forgotten stash of a dozen rolls shoved into the back of a closet. The same is true for presents you may have hidden too well last year.
- Shop secondhand for decorations. Thrift stores and garage sales usually have loads of holiday decorations as people upgrade, downsize or realize their decorations somehow multiplied when they weren't looking.
- Consider budget-friendly alternative gifts. Homemade gifts are a great option if you're crafty or a whiz in the kitchen, or even if you aren't either of those, but can follow online directions. Coupons for your “services,” like babysitting, can also make good presents.
- Make your own holiday cards. You can save money (and trees) by using e-cards to send greetings to your loved ones instead of traditional cards. Many websites offer free or inexpensive e-cards, some with options to add videos or slideshows.
- Plan holiday meals early. Knowing what you're going to cook well in advance lets you shop the sales for the non-perishable items you'll need. It also helps spread the higher food costs over a couple paychecks instead of just one.
- Use your smart phone while shopping. Many retailers can send coupons right to your phone when you walk into their stores, which is handy (if not a little creepy). You can also use your phone to compare prices to make sure you're getting the best deal.
- Consider traveling on the holiday itself. You could score a much cheaper airline ticket by flying on the holiday instead of in the days before. Plus, arriving on the big day conveniently gets you out of a lot of meal-prep duty.
- Search hotel rates and airfares online. Take advantage of websites that compare airfares and hotels so you get the best deal. Many will also alert you to price drops. Another bonus: Those online reviews can help you avoid a vacation you remember for all the wrong reasons. Be sure to check out special travel options for service members on lodging and flights.
Remember, you don't have to bankrupt yourself to have a great holiday. From gift giving to party planning and travel, there are a lot of ways to save money. Check out other budget-friendly tips from Military OneSource, or take advantage of free financial counseling available in person, by phone or by video chat.