How to Manage Your Money During the Holidays

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It’s the most wonderful — and expensive — time of the year. Between gifts, entertaining, and decorating, even a pared-down holiday can deplete your savings. However, if you plan ahead, you can have holiday cheer and a healthy bank account, both at the same time. Here’s how to manage your money during the holidays.

Plan Ahead
Advance planning is key to managing your money during the holidays. Well before the season strikes, start a gift closet in your home for repurposed wrap, gift bags, and items you want to regift. Set up an automatic transfer of money from your checking account to a savings account especially for holiday spending — even a little bit each week will give you something to work with when it comes time to buy a special gift. At least a month prior to the time you plan to start shopping, put yourself on a spending diet and pledge to purchase only the necessities.

Comparison Shop
Research the things you want to buy online before you begin shopping. If you know how things are priced online, you will be less likely to overspend in a store. Monitor sales from your favorite retailers and check for coupons on sites like FreeShippingDay.com. There are also plenty of smartphone apps that will check thousands of on- or offline retailers to find the best prices or that can alert you when prices drop.

The Greatest Gifts of All
Sometimes, the best gifts are practically free. If you have expertise your friends and family don’t, it can be more valuable than anything that comes in a box. Every skill — from taking pictures to cutting hair to babysitting — can be something a recipient will really appreciate. Do you consider yourself handy? Helping someone out with home improvements is an invaluable present. Do you have an eye for home décor? Help a friend rearrange her house. And who doesn’t love baked goods?

Remember that the most important part of the holiday season is time spent with those you love. Keeping the focus on family, friends, and fun will ensure a Christmas to remember, no matter your budget.