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How to Cut Down on Holiday Spending

Your Guide to a More Affordable Christmas

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Cutting down on holiday spending, doesn't have to mean cutting down on holiday fun. Here are twelve ways to plan a fun and affordable holiday:

1. Create a Budget

A cheaper Christmas starts with a solid spending plan. Look over your finances, and decide how much you can afford to spend on Christmas. Then, divide this amount among your various Christmas expenses – gifts, food, decorations, etc.

2. Make a Gift List

Bring focus to your gift spending by creating a list of all the people you plan to shop for. Then, set a spending limit for each person, and jot down gift ideas before heading out to shop.

3. Trim Down Your Gift List

Have more people on your gift list than you can afford to buy for? Then, it's time to give that list a trim. Look over your current list, and decide whom you have to shop for and whom you don't. Remember: a shorter Christmas list is always better than adding debt and stress to your life.

4. Start Early

Black Friday may be the official start to the Christmas shopping season, but it doesn't have to be the start to yours. Start shopping for gifts as soon as you can afford to do so, and you'll have more time to bargain shop and feel less pressure to buy at any price.

6. Shop Second-Hand

There's no rule that says gifts have to be bought new. Scour thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets and other second-hand sources for gift-worthy items at prices well below retail. Just a few possibilities: unburned candles, antiques, collectibles, vintage jewelry and books.

7. Make It Yourself

Homemade gifts are every bit as nice as store-bought gifts, and sometimes nicer. Put your creativity to work, and knock off everyone on your gift list.

8. Don't Shop for Yourself

All of those holiday deals make it easy to adopt a "one for me; one for you" mentality. Set a rule that you'll only shop for the people on your list – and not yourself. The pay off: less stuff in your house and more money in the bank.

9. Skip the Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are nice, but the cost can really add up. First you've got to buy the cards; then, you've got to pay for all the postage to mail them. Double ouch! To make your Christmas budget go further, consider skipping the Christmas cards this year, or at least trim your mailing list down to a more manageable size. Still attached to the tradition of sending cards? Here are several ways that you can minimize the expense:

10. Skip the Pricey Gift Wrap

Gift wrap has gotten so expensive – sometimes adding as much as $5 to the cost of a present. Wow! Fortunately, it only takes a bit of creativity to avoid this expense entirely:

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