11 Easy Ways to Save Money & Still Have the Best Holiday Season Ever

If you’re anything like us, you look forward to the holiday season all year long. Filled with adventures, gift-giving and cocoa, the holidays create an opportunity for so much fun with family and friends. But things can quickly get pricey as you splurge on Starbucks drinks, decorations, trips with friends and gifts for the ones you love. Don’t worry! Let’s save the stress for the important stuff this holiday season, such as untangling that mess of Christmas lights and trying to pick the perfect presents. With these easy, sneaky tips for saving money this holiday season, you’ll maintain your budget without missing out on any holiday fun.

Shopping Tips

Sign up for store rewards programs.

Spoiler alert: Store rewards programs offer major savings. From Pier 1 Imports to Sephora, most stores have rewards programs where you earn points for every dollar you spend. Kohl’s, for example, has a program called Kohl’s Cash, where you earn $15 to use at the store for every $50 you spend. Pile these rewards on top of the exclusive coupons and deals often offered to reward members, and you’ll be shopping at the best prices possible. Plus, when you’re out shopping, get deals on lunch and dinner with the thousands of restaurant rewards apps. If you’re hangry while you shop, you’re going to be much more impulsive in your spending choices. Plan ahead to save both your budget and your diet

Shop special sales, even if they feel early.

Look in the clearance section, especially online. Retailers constantly offer clearance steals, and places like Homegoods, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx have discounted products for every interest. Keep an eye out for special savings days, and sign up for your favorite stores’ email lists to get notifications whenever a sale goes live.

Create DIY gift sets for a more affordable option.

Contrary to popular belief, DIY gifts can be more thoughtful than luxury items already compiled together in the store. Create self-care gift baskets with bath bombs, body lotions, a candle, some fluffy socks and maybe a chocolate bar. Customizing gift ideas allows you to create meaningful, more affordable gift options.



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Keep emotions in check while spending.

If you’re stressed out, it’s easy to hop onto Amazon and click the add-to-cart button without realizing the consequences on your bank account. Come up with healthy coping strategies for holiday and end-of-year stress so that your decisions are quality, not frazzled!  

Make sure to remember quality over quantity.

While lots of people think it’s less expensive to buy a few cheaper items rather than one larger product, the costs can really bundle and grow rapidly. Remember that one really quality gift that will mean a lot to someone is a good choice, even if it seems like a higher cost up-front. Be smart with who you shop for and what items you splurge on for them.

If you have a large friend group, try a Secret Santa.

Instead of having to shop for presents for everyone in your squad, suggest that this year you try out a Secret Santa gift exchange. Set a price minimum (or maximum) and enjoy being able to really think about a meaningful gift! You can also combine this gift swap with a mini party. Everyone can bring their gift and a holiday-inspired dish for a memorable holiday night (at an affordable cost). You could also try out a white elephant gift exchange with your friends, which often entails lower cost, quirkier gifts around a certain theme or price point.

Related: Savvy Shopping: How Not to Go Over Your Holiday Shopping Budget 

Deals on Adventures

From snow tubing to heading to a Christmas lights display, the holidays are bursting with chances to get out and have some fun with your friends and family. However, the costs of these winter adventures can quickly stack up. These small tips help keep costs low and fun high this holiday season.

Take advantage of student and other discounts.

Spontaneity is awesome, but so is saving money because you went to an event on the right night. Many places offer student discounts with your ID, and some even have college nights where you can attend for a lower price. Use websites like Groupon to look up the attractions near you and save money on tickets. Sometimes, going earlier can help save money, too. For some holiday light displays or attractions, going earlier in the week or even at an earlier time of night can help lower costs.

Create your own inexpensive holiday fun.

Plan a holiday movie night with your friends. Pick out a few favorite films, gather up the snacks and have everyone bring something, like a topping for a hot chocolate bar or a bag of candy to share. The whole event will be fun and memorable without costing you tons of money. Events like movie nights are easy and quick to put together, and creating your own events and fun this holiday season will help keep your budget in check. You could also try recreating Pinterest holiday desserts with your pals for a hilarious and super fun time. 



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Budgeting and Organization

Part of why the holiday season can get so out-of-hand for your budget is how easy it is to forget how much you’ve spent. Of course, the holidays are about much more than the amount that you spend, but keeping yourself organized is a simple way to get ahead and enjoy the holidays.

Keep a list.

As you shop, keep a list of what gifts you’ve purchased and who they are for. This way, you know what’s taken care of and what still needs to get done, and can even keep track of the amount you’re spending per person. Before you shop, write out a plan for who you need to shop for and what you’re thinking will work for each person.

Set a loose budget.

We call this a loose budget because you don’t need to have a super strict outline. You need a rough plan for spending. Allocate money towards different areas of holiday fun, and do your best to stay within those guidelines. For example, try allocating $100 for fun things with friends and family, $15 each for friend gifts, etc.

Use the 48-hour policy.

Online shopping makes it hard to say no to purchases. When all you have to do is click “add to cart,” it’s hard to stop yourself, especially if it seems like a great purchase. During the holidays, commit to wait a day or two before taking the plunge while online shopping. If you see an item you fall in love with, bookmark it and walk away. If you’re still thinking about it two days later, go for it! However, you might just find that it’s not as good of an idea after a few days of thinking.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, make sure you are smart about the way you spend your money. We encourage you to treat yourself and those around you, but don’t do it in a way that will stress you out for the start of the new year.