Money Saving Tips for the HolidaysWhen planning for the holidays there are many tricks and resources that can help you save.

Gifts

Make your own. Beyond basic baked and craft items, which are still great ideas, try some other inexpensive and unique gift ideas. For example, a handmade scrapbook, a digital photo frame loaded with pictures, or coupons for car-washing and babysitting. You can find a lot of good ideas on Pinterest.

Consider non-gift celebrations. Instead of the traditional gift-giving ritual, take a friend to lunch.

Host a family, or support a charitable function. This could be similar to a "Giving Tree" at church or work. You'll stick to a price range, but you're also buying for someone who really needs and will appreciate your gift. These charitable activities also are great teachable moments for kids.

Make a donation in someone's name. Be sure to check the Better Business Bureau to be sure the charity is reputable. Other sites to check up on a charity include:

Create a "gift pool." For big ticket items, consider pooling resources and making the purchase with others.

Give gift cards. Pay attention to expiration dates and fees. Gift cards will help you spend your budgeted amount. Check out GiftCardGranny.com or PlasticJungle.com to purchase discounted gift cards.

Use your credit card. Now's the time to cash in on your credit card's rewards points. You could order products, services, or, if they offer gift cards, use the gift cards to go buy presents.

Negotiate. Negotiating is a little more work, but it can be well worth the extra effort. A Consumer Reports National Research Center survey showed the majority of consumers who negotiated prices on appliances, electronics, or furniture got at least one discount in the past three years.

Go to the store prepared, don't be afraid to ask questions, and know that the first price you see does not always have to be the final price. Check out Shopzilla.com or Pricegrabber.com before you head to the store, and bring copies of the sales ads you find there to the store.

Clip Online Coupons

Clip online coupons. Visit Ebates.com and CurrentCodes.com for promotional or discount codes while shopping online. Other reputable coupon sites include:

Never pay for shipping again. Check out the codes at FreeShipping.com orFreeShippingDay.com for when you shop online.

Buy green, save green. MamboSprouts.com and OrganicDeals.com specialize in coupons for people who prefer organic and natural products.

Time purchases to the best days to shop. Thursday evening is typically the best time to buy clothing. That's when you will find great prices—to entice people to shop in the middle of the week—and the best selection. Saturday evening is the best time to shop at department stores. Ask for the Sunday sale price right before the store closes. Chances are good the employees will honor the sale price if you ask.

Take advantage of layaway programs. Layaway is like a loan with no interest. Because you don't take the items home until you're done paying, though, this strategy is best used a couple of months or more ahead of time.

Send holiday postcards. Save time and money on postage. Some other ideas are to write holiday letters, create your own cards, send a holiday e-mail, or send New Year's cards or notes after December.

DIY Projects

Save money and add meaning to your holiday gift giving by making your own. This can also be a great way to involve the whole family in the holiday season.

Ask for and give decorations as gifts.

Wrap gifts in newspaper comics; magazine pages; old maps; white shelf or butcher paper that you color, glue and glitter, or rubber stamp; fabric remnants; or brown bags you tie off with yarn or ribbon.

Recycle old holiday cards by using fronts for gift tags.

Put baked holiday goods in colorful food containers, recycled holiday tins, or wrap in colored plastic wrap and tie with ribbon.

Instead of baking, whip up some dry ingredients for holiday goodies and put them in a decorative container with instructions.

Use your creativity or special talent to create unique gifts. Knitting, needlepoint, scrapbooking, embroidery, writing, playing music, art, pottery, or the like.

Not crafty? Give the gift of your time. Offer to walk the dog, babysit, or wash the car for someone you care about.

Create a memory jar.

Have the kids draw pictures for the grandparents, or do handprints and make them into reindeer.

Find more inspiration at RealSimple.com or MarthaStewart.com.

Money Saving Tips For Décor

Use what you have. Faux trees, garlands, candelabras, and many other decorative items can be stored in secure containers and brought out each year during the holidays.

Make decorations. RealSimple.com or MarthaStewart.com both have ample lists of ideas along with how-tos.

  • String popcorn to make garlands.
  • Spray paint pine cones and twigs to make a centerpiece or wreath.
  • Make your own ornaments or paper snowflakes
  • Fill jars with gumdrops and "plant" candy canes.
  • Line old holiday cards on the mantel.
  • Wrap throw pillows, lamps, or wall art like presents.
  • Frame old cards or wrapping paper.
  • Fill vases or mason jars with seasonal fruits or colorful ornaments.

Money Saving Tips For Travel

Compare prices of various airlines. Hipmunk.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Kayak.com compare flights based on your specifications.

Fly on off-peak days. Take it one step further and fly the red-eye on the day of the holiday. You'd be amazed how much money you can save by doing this.

Use your frequent flyer miles. Now's the time to cash in on your credit card's rewards.

Don't believe myths. According to recent studies on airline pricing, the idea that shopping for tickets on Tuesday or Wednesday is cheaper is not true. Research found that weekend fares could actually be five percent cheaper. However, airline sales often occur earlier in the week, so monitor the flights price fluctuations.

Price shop in advance. Travelzoo.com sends you deals on airfare in your area. TripMama.com allows you to enter when and where you want to go and sends you alerts when prices go up or down. Bing.com/Travel educates you when to buy when to wait and also sends alert on your specified flights.

Reserve hotel rooms on Sunday. According to travel experts, the kind of hotel manager that won't give you a discount doesn't work on Sunday. Weekend managers are open to negotiation because they would rather have a booked room at a discount than an empty room on the books.

Fill up the tank on Thursday morning. Weekend travelers usually fuel up on Thursdays, pumping up demand. Fill up your tank before 10 a.m. when many stations change their prices.

For Your Security

Make sure all online purchases are secure – you will see https:// in the address of a secure site and a lock at the bottom right hand corner of the window.

Make sure you read the return policy when shopping by catalog or website. Keep a copy of your order form with the company's address and phone number. Note the date of the order.

The Federal Trade Commission Mail Order Rule requires that mail order companies:

  • Ship merchandise within 30 days or within the time specified in their ads.
  • Do not solicit orders unless they can reasonably expect that the orders can be shipped within the stated time.
  • Notify consumers about delays and offer them the option of agreeing to the delay or cancelling their order.

Plan for Next Year

Many people like to take advantage of post-holiday price breaks. This can be a great way to shop after the holidays for next year's gifts. You can hit some great sales; just remember where you hide the items and to keep your budget in mind.

Most importantly, once the holidays are over and you've had a chance to relax, it's a good idea to review the total cost of your holiday expenses. Ideally, you should establish a savings plan for next year based on your experience. Total all of your expenses and divide by 10. Save that amount each month for 10 month —January through October. Use direct deposit or automatic transfer of funds. By next November when you're ready to shop, you can have the money in a holiday savings account at your credit union.

Give yourself the best gift—debt-free holiday spending next year.

 Financial Education


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