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With Christmas less than a month away, the pressure is on to find great gifts for your loved ones.  Holiday shoppers are expected to spend $997.79 on gifts, food, and decorations this year.  But the question is can you afford it?  Often, people end the year in debt because they went overboard during the holidays.  Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use to keep your spending under control.

Set a budget

You work hard for your money so spend it wisely.  Review your finances and calculate how much you can comfortably afford to spend after your regular bills are paid.  Once you see how much money you have to play with, you can decide how to budget the funds.  Set a spending limit for gifts, cards, postage, wrapping paper and anything else you think you’ll need. 

Decide who to shop for and how much to spend on each gift

Not everyone is going to make your “nice” list this year.  Decide who you want to shop for and set a spending limit for each person.  If you’re short on cash, eliminate the adults and just focus on the children in your life.  Of course, you want to discuss it with your family beforehand to avoid an awkward situation.

Use cash to buy all your gifts

Some people shop so much that they know their credit card number by heart.  This makes it too easy to spend money you don’t have.  The best thing to do is swap your credit card for cash.  Go to the bank and withdraw the amount you have budgeted.  Once the money is gone, you’ll have no choice but to hang up your Santa hat until next year.  

Suggest a Secret Santa instead of buying gifts for everyone

When you come from a large family, it can be time consuming and expensive to find the perfect gift for each person.  One way to make life easier is to host a Secret Santa.  Have everyone put their name in a hat, mix it up and take turns drawing a name.  Set a spending limit and encourage everyone to write three things on their wish list.  It’s less gifts to buy and much easier on everyone’s wallet.

Trade traditional cards for e-cards

Rather than purchasing traditional greeting cards from the drugstore, save cash (and postage) by sending your folks e-cards instead.  Choose one of the free options online and add your own personal message.  Obviously, you’ll need to know the persons email address or phone number for this to work.

Use cashback apps and coupon codes to save money

Don’t miss your chance to save extra cash.  Use a cash back app like Rakuten or Ibotta to earn money while you shop.  Simply start your shopping trip through them and you’ll get back a percentage of whatever you spend.  To save even more money, look for coupon codes using RetailMeNot before you checkout.

Do your research and shop early

You don’t have to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to buy holiday gifts.  Pick up things throughout the year that you know your loved ones will like and hide them in your closet.  Find out when’s the best time to buy certain items and shop accordingly.  For example, February is the best time to buy winter clothes because retailers need to start making room for spring and summer items.  Pick up a few classic sweaters for a fraction of the price and save it for the holidays. 

Take advantage of free shipping

Most stores waive the shipping fee if you spend the required minimum.  Instead of buying one item here and there, make one big purchase so you can get free shipping.  You can also avoid shipping fees by doing an in-store or curbside pickup.  Simply buy your items online and get notified when it’s ready for pickup.