Six Simple Tricks for Holiday Savings

Christmas is a time for family gatherings, home-cooked meals and cozy nights by the fire. Unfortunately for most, it's also a time for debt. The gifts, decorations and travel expenses that go along with the season can be a real financial burden, especially if you're already working with a strained budget. However, you shouldn't be too quick to assume that you have to take on new debt in order to enjoy the season. Put your creativity to work and you're sure to find lots of ways to stretch your holiday dollars. Read on for several money-saving tips to get you started.

1. Send postcards. At a cost of 42 cents each, mailing Christmas cards can get quite expensive. Fortunately, cutting back on postage costs is quite easy. Just send Christmas postcards instead and you'll shave cents off the cost of mailing each one.

2. Get creative with your gift wrap. If you want to save big, leave the costly gift bags and wrapping paper at the retail stores. Instead, swing by your local thrift store and pick up a couple rolls of red or green wallpaper. No one will ever guess that you bought your stylish wrapping material for as little as 10 cents a roll.

3. Go artificial. If your family is in the habit of purchasing a real Christmas tree each year, you may be missing out on some real savings. Invest in an artificial tree and you'll instantly put $20 or more back into your yearly Christmas budget. Then take things a step further and trade in the live wreaths and garland as well.

4. Get your kids involved. Don't rush to the store for gifts when you have little crafters on hand. Instead, pull out the craft supplies and encourage your kids to take part in the gift-giving process by making gifts for their friends and teachers. You'll keep your little ones busy and save money in the process.

5. Give the gift of food. If you like what coupons do for your weekly food budget, just wait until you see what they can do for your Christmas budget. Come up with a food-related theme for a gift basket (Italian dinner, picnic in the park, Sunday breakfast) then go through the Sunday paper and cut out coupons for items that correspond to your theme. Once you have your coupons, saving money is as simple as taking a trip to the grocery store. To maximize your savings, combine coupons with store sales or shop at a store that offers double coupons.

6. Set a budget. While setting a budget may seem like the most obvious means of saving money, it is too often overlooked or ignored. Before you venture out to do any of your holiday shopping, take the time to sit down and create a realistic budget for your holiday spending. Just knowing how much money you have to work with can be the difference between reasonable spending and a mountain of debt.

This holiday season, treat yourself to a debt-free Christmas. It may just be the best gift you ever receive.

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