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While the holidays are a ton of fun, they’re also expensive.
Balancing travel with gift shopping gets tricky—fast.
While many people aren’t traveling this year, there are still ways to tighten the belt.
These are our five tips to help you beat money stress as you wrap gifts and the year wraps up.
1. Start Now
There’s no faster way to spend a bunch than waiting till last minute.
Rushing to book holiday travel or buy gifts you need makes it easy to spend more than you planned.
If you’ll be leaving for the holidays, make your holiday travel plans now. Then, book it.
Buy your gifts early, too.
Then, don’t wait to get them in the mail. Shipping gets pricier the longer you wait.
To keep yourself on track, here are the key shipping deadlines you need to know.
2. Set Your Holiday Budget
Make a budget specifically for the holidays.
This can be super simple.
If you’re traveling, your budget should have two categories: gifts and travel.
If you’re not leaving home, you only need a gift category.
Now, set your cap. It can be helpful to look at spending in past years to get an idea of how much you’ll spend here.
Then, it’s just a matter of sticking with it. Which brings us to our next point.
3. Keep Track of Your Gift Spending
This is a game-changer.
Because holiday shopping is spread out over time and different places, it’s hard to keep track—but it’s worth it.
Whether you make a spreadsheet, keep a note in your phone, or use a budgeting app, find a way to maintain a running total on your gift spending.
This way, you won’t start the new year wondering where all of your money went.
4. DIY What You Can
DIYs are your friend, friend.
Many of us overspend on holiday gifts because we want to give our loved ones something showy.
Homemade gifts can be just as sweet to get and shows you care.
It’s an awesome way to give a meaningful gift without shelling out a bunch of cash.
Here are a few DIY gifts ideas to get your creative wheels turning:
- Polymer clay catchall dish: These catchall dishes look elegant but are super simple to make.
- Chalkboard mug: Dress up some dollar store mugs with this simple DIY. Add a small bundle of chalk with the gift to make it extra-thoughtful.
- Crossstitch ornament: A small embroidery hoop, some embroidery thread, a needle, an ornament hook, and some spare time are all you need for this one. If you want to get everything in one fell swoop, you can grab a kit from Etsy.
- Coasters: Here, the options are pretty much endless. Look through the many coaster DIY tutorials to pick the style that best fits your giftee.
- Leather keychain: This DIY keychain can be a great masculine-looking gift or you can paint it to prettify it. If you want to add a custom element, you can stamp the leather with their initials, too.
Save on your holiday travels
For the people braving travel this holiday season, we’ve got tips for you.
- Consider shipping presents: Do the math. If it would be cheaper to mail your packages and board your flight with just a carry-on, do it.
- Compare flying and driving: Driving is the safer choice this year, so even if it adds some hours, it might make sense. Some flights are much cheaper than normal, though, because of reduced demand.
- Set fare alerts: If you’re going to fly, set a fare alert in Google Flights or Kayak so you get notified when your route is cheapest.
- Travel on weird days: The days immediately before and after holidays are busiest. That means more expensive flights and more clogged freeways, which means spending more on gas. Try to travel on off days to save.
- Pack your food: Not only does bringing your own food mean fewer touchpoints (read: increased safety), but it also helps you save money. Airport food is notorious for its markup, and even gas stations and drive-throughs add up. Plus, odds are high you can pack a healthier meal than you’d be able to buy on the road.
With these tips, you can keep your savings merry and your financial future bright this holiday season.
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