Save money this holiday season

The months leading up to Christmas can be hellish for budgeting. Families who haven’t been saving money all year for the holiday season will feel the crunch and panic of wondering how to fulfill their family’s Christmas wishes and how to foot the bill when once the wrapping paper has hit the floor.

The biggest way to prepare for a financially sound holiday season is to start saving in January. Budget what you would like to spend on your Christmas. Divide that into 12 and that is how much money you should set aside every month. If this is too much to save monthly, then re-evaluate your Christmas budget. It is more than you can afford. And no, nothing should ever be put on credit. If you can’t pay in cash, you don’t have the money to purchase it. Make sure to budget other items such as wrapping paper, holiday greeting cards, neighborhood gifts, office parties and holiday activities.

Find ways to save money all year long: shop with coupons, only buy food at the grocery store that is on sale, buy discount health insurance, refinance your car to a lower rate, give up pricey gym memberships you never use, etc. These little changes can add up greatly at the end of the year to help with Christmas gifts.

A great way to score cheap Christmas gifts is to shop the sales. Start making an idea list for everyone in your book. You should nail down big ticket items by Thanksgiving, just in time for Black Friday. While it might seem ridiculous to wake up with the other crazies before the crack of dawn, you can save some real money. Just be careful not to buy things that are not on our list just because they are on sale. You will end up spending more money than you originally intended. If waking up before the birds start singing doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, retailers have dubbed the Monday after Thanksgiving Cyber Monday. Online retailers will offer deals just as good (or even better) on their Web sites.

Subscribe to deal finding Web sites. There are many Web sites that are devoted to finding good deals year round, but they kick it in to overdrive during the holiday season. You can subscribe to these sites so their posts are emailed directly to your inbox, or follow them on Facebook to have the deals right there on your news feed.

Another way to survive a Christmas financial meltdown is to par down your Christmas. Focus on traditions instead of gifts. Think back about your favorite Christmases growing up. What do you remember most? Most likely those memories do not revolve around the gifts you received. It is the memories about traditions that shine through. Find traditions that focus your family around the reason for the holiday season.

One way to save on Christmas and to avoid commercialization is to make homemade gifts or give gifts of services. These gifts can use your skills and can cost very little. However, it is important to remember that you must factor in time. Homemade gifts can take a lot of time.

Other quick money saving tips: don’t buy wrapping paper. Use old newspapers. You are recycling AND saving money. Win-win. Buy cheap decorations right after Christmas. The week after the holidays, decorations go up to 90% off. Yes, ninety percent. Try to find cheap holiday entertainment. Go caroling to your neighbors or watch old holiday movies.