The holidays are here and your social calendar is packed. You’ve been invited to parties, potlucks, gift exchanges and family gatherings, but you’re wondering how to have a good time without busting your budget. With so many of us forced to count our pennies, this holiday season threatens to leave little more than a lump of coal in our stockings. But fear not, with a few simple tips you can have a festive and frugal holiday!

Five Tips for a Festive and Frugal Holiday

Create A Budget (and stick to it!): One way to not spend more than you can afford is to create a realistic budget for each person you plan on buying a gift. Once you have your list, assign a maximum price for each gift, and don’t be afraid to leave people off your list. Resist getting suckered into buying gifts for distant cousins or friends of friends. Along with saving you money, setting a budget also requires you to be a more thoughtful giver, and may even make your gifts that much more enjoyable for your friends and family.

Compare Prices: The Internet (Overstock.com, Boutiques.com, Amazon.com), mobile phone apps, and traditional sales circulars make comparison shopping a breeze. One key way to save cash? Don’t buy all of your gifts from one store (or website), comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the best price for what you’re buying.

Never Pay Full Price: Keep an eye out for coupons that come in the mail around this time of year. Also, search the Internet (RetailMeNot.com) for coupon codes (and printable coupons) that can help you save anywhere between 15% to 50% percent off the retail, or even sale, price. Before you step foot in a store, however, do your homework. And never, ever pay full price for anything!

Look For Free Gift-Wrapping: If a store offers free gift-wrapping or gift boxes, take it. Not only will it save you time, but it’ll also save you cash on overpriced wrapping paper and gift boxes. Also, keep an eye out for donation-based gift-wrapping while you shop. It’ll be much cheaper than paying the store to wrap your gifts and you’ll be giving back to the community at the same time.

Don’t Be Afraid To Re-gift: It always happens, you get a gift from a co-worker or in a gift exchange that’s cool, but not your style. Don’t just smile and keep it, pass it on (just make sure you don’t give it back to the person who gave it to you!). It’ll save you time, money and it’s good for the planet.

The holiday season can be stressful and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, this time of year is not about buying expensive gifts, but rather spending time with those you love and being thankful for what you’ve got.

How do you save money around the holidays? Share your tips with us!

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  • isolde

    . . . or if you can’t find free gift wrapping, just go to the dollar store and buy your paper, ribbon and gift boxes there. Don’t let the low price fool you, the dollar store has nice Christmas decor for your gifts. It’s the one place I can always count on to have nice gift bags with black characters on them.

    while it’s a little too late for this year, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for rewards programs at retail stores where you frequently shop, as long as it’s free. The rewards points add up for coupons and discounts. i’m a legal guardian of a soon to be two year old boy who frequently shops at Babies and Toys r’ Us. So I know.

    Plan ahead. Don’t wait until after Thanksgiving to do most of your shopping on items that aren’t seasonal. With the exception of clothing, media, or gaming equipment that isn’t availalbe until the holiday season (X-box 360 Kinect), a great deal of what you’re going to buy for people is available all year round, and stores run sales on more occasions than Christmas. I bought the baby’s Christmas presents in the summer. Amazon always has summer clearance before fall, and the discounts are often insane! Many online retailers have free shipping on orders over $50 dollars. Amazon ships free on most of its products over $25. The sooner you order, the less you’ll have to worry about the packages arriving before Christmas.

  • Great advice and we also saw some free gift wrapping opportunities. JCPenny in particular was giving out as many free gift boxes as we wanted on Black Friday. They were good for more things than just clothes.