How to Spend Wisely During the Holidays

'Tis the season to be merry -- not broke

Wouldn't it be nice if you remembered to put aside an extra $50 or $100 each month, so that when December rolled around, you had plenty of cushion in your bank account to enjoy guilt-free spending during the holidays ? You are certainly not alone!

If you were smart enough to save a little bit all year, congrats. But if you're like most of us and you're concerned about how to buy for everyone on your list and still have enough left over to pay January's rent, these tips are for you.

Make Mini Budgets
Think it's too late to set a budget now? Not so. Shopping without limits puts you on the fast track to debt, so I set a mental budget every time I walk into a store or set out in search of a certain gift. These mini-budgets help me plan ahead and prioritize: for instance, on Black Friday, I promised myself I'd spend no more than $100 for the entire day. It forced me to choose carefully and really take time to decide which bargains were worth it and what I wanted or needed most.

Pay Now, Be Glad Later
Whenever possible, use cash or your debit card to shop, instead of whipping out a credit card. If it means putting something on hold at a store until your next paycheck, so be it. The last thing you want to do right now is buy things you can't truly afford -- and any discounts or sales you find now will be cancelled out by the credit card interest you'll rack up. You'll also make holiday debt extend into the New Year -- and wouldn't you rather use next year's extra cash for something better, like a fun summer vacation?

Give Group Gifts
Every year, my brother and sister and I pool our money and get our parents one big gift from all of us. We started doing this a few years ago, and it's been a hit for several reasons: we all spend less than we'd have to on our own, I get two more people to help me present-hunt, and our parents get a nice gift and are happy the three of us worked together to pick it out.

Celebrate Without Spending
On top of gift-shopping, all the holiday gatherings and parties you're invited to can also put a big strain on your wallet. Don't give in! Shop your closet for something to wear to your company bash, and borrow jewelry or a scarf from a friend so your look at least feels new. And if your friends are talking about having a dinner out to celebrate the season, suggest a cheap but chic potluck instead. You may have to offer up your apartment, but you'll probably shave 90% off the cost of the night. (Staying in is so much cozier, anyway!).

Don't let overspending ruin your holiday cheer! What's your best money-saving tip for this time of year? Chime in below!

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