New Ways to Save Money on the Holidays

We all know the best day to buy wrapping paper and ornaments is December 27, and shopping off-season is the best way to save money on gifts. But as you maynot already know, some clever and resourceful iVillagers have taken creative Christmas budgeting to the next level. Here's the proof: 10 money-saving holiday tips you probably haven't already heard a million times.

1. I do a lot of surveys, contests and sweepstakes online, which pay money, points, prizes or gift certificates. I give the prizes and gift certificates as gifts, or I sell the prizes on eBay for Christmas money. If a survey site pays points, I redeem them for cash or gifts, and any checks I get I put into a Christmas fund.

2. Each year I keep a spreadsheet of what gifts we gave to whom and how much they cost — including my hubby and two kids. Then the following year I play a game with myself to see how far under last year's total I can get. Since I've been doing it, I've managed to spend less than the previous year's total at least three times.

3. My husband frequently travels for work. He stays at a lot of hotels and gets gift cards for rewards, and we use those to buy presents.

4. I buy 90 percent of my gifts online, which means I avoid crowds, spend nothing on gas, comparison shop at the stroke of a key for the best deal, avoid tax, take advantage of online coupons and promos, plus it's delivered to my door. A lot of merchants offer free shipping during the holidays too.

5. I've cut back on the Christmas card list. The world won't end if I don't send a card to everyone — just like the world won't end if I don't receive a card from everyone. So I save on the cost of cards and the cost of postage stamps.

6. I draw, design and print my own cards, gift tags and mailing labels. Those little expenses add up.

7. After so many years of always having to charge Christmas, then taking 'til summer to pay it off, one year I finally got smart! I walked into my bank and set up a direct debit from each paycheck to be deposited into a Christmas fund. I haven't charged any holiday-season expenses since. What's the sense of shopping for the best deals when you end up paying through the nose with all those finance charges?

8. If I find something great on sale, I'll buy two. There is always a need for an unexpected gift at the holidays, and that way I always have one on hand.

9. Hand deliver gifts when possible, rather than paying for shipping. This is why I'm striving to get all my family's shopping done before Thanksgiving! We'll pack the Christmas gifts in the car and drive them up with us and maybe even open them while we're there.

10. I've learned to let the kids' spend-happy relatives cover the bulk of the holiday shopping! In all seriousness, I've learned to back off on my own buying for the kids because I know they will get plenty (too much) for Christmas anyway. I try to make it less about the gifts and more about tradition: Christmas Eve they always get Christmas pajamas and a new book for us to read together.

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