The holiday season and spending money often go together, but there are ways to celebrate with your family without going into debt. It’s all about spending wisely.
Consider these tips for staying in control of your finances during the holidays:
- Create a spending plan. Money can fly out of your wallet quickly for gifts, special meals, decorations and travel. Decide how much you’re going to spend in each of these areas and stay in that range.
- Be careful when using credit cards. If you are making the majority of your purchases with a credit card, it can be easy to lose track of how much you are spending. Checking your balance as you go, however, may keep you from spending more than you intended.
- Take inventory. Before you rush out to buy wrapping paper, check to see if there’s a forgotten stash of rolls shoved to the back of a closet. The same is true for presents you may have hidden too well last year.
- Shop for secondhand decorations. Thrift stores and garage sales usually have loads of holiday decorations as people upgrade, downsize or realize that the ones they already have 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 but can follow online directions. “Coupons” for your services, such as 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. 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 allows you to watch for sales on the nonperishable items you’ll need. It also helps spread the higher food costs over a couple of paychecks instead of one.
- Use your smartphone while shopping. Many retailers can send coupons directly to your phone when you walk into their stores. You can also use your phone to compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deals.
- 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. And 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 to make sure you get the best deal. Many will also alert you to price drops. And online reviews can help you sidestep a bad experience. Be sure to check out special travel options for service members on lodging and flights.
- Consider Space-A transportation. This program allows you to fly for free or at a very low cost on military flights if there is room for you. Schedules change and restrictions apply, so learn more about Space-A travel.
There are a lot of ways to save money during the holidays. 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.