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17 Ideas for How to Save Money During the Holidays

It's easy to overspend during the holiday season. From presents to travel to decorations and all that food, here are 15 ideas for how to save money during the holidays.

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Set a BudgetS_Photo/Shutterstock

Set a Budget

Figure out all the things you'll need to purchase—gifts, food, decorations—and set a budget and stick to it. Be sure to think about little things that are easy to forget about such as charitable contributions, gas for travel and wine for a holiday party host. By setting a budget you will surely save money during the holidays. Check out more holiday decoration tips.

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Get Christmas Lists Early

The earlier you get your loved ones Christmas lists the earlier you can get shopping and hopefully find great deals. If you can brave the crowds, Black Friday is a great day to buy Christmas presents for a discounted price. And if you can’t handle the crowds, there’s always Cyber Monday to find gift deals online.

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Use Cash OnlySasa Djelic/Shutterstock

Use Cash Only

It can be hard to keep track of spending when using credit or cards, so make a point to use cash only for holiday-related purchases. When the money is gone, the shopping is over and saving money during the holidays is well underway. Check out these awesome gifts that any DIYer will love.

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Start Shopping Earlylola1960/Shutterstock

Start Shopping Early

The earlier you start shopping for the holidays, the easier it will be to resist overspending. And starting early allows you time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, instead of having to shop at the last minute. And this makes it more likely you'll blow the budget and won't save money during the holidays. Check out these early bird shopping tips and gift ideas.

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disposable plates and utensils paper plates plastic forksFamily Handyman

Buy in Bulk

If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, it’s smart and cost-effective to buy frequently used items like paper plates, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in bulk during the holidays, especially if you are hosting holiday gatherings.

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Cut Back on Extras (For a Month)Masson/Shutterstock

Cut Back on Extras (For a Month)

To ease the strain on your budget, try cutting back on extras for a month. If you give up that $5 latte you have each morning for 30 days, you can save $150 which could go toward Christmas gifts. And if you do splurge on yourself in the days leading up to Christmas, make sure it's worth the price. Check out these things that every homeowner should do to save money.

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Go Potluck StyleCabeca de Marmore/Shutterstock

Go Potluck Style

Instead of serving a large holiday meal in which you're responsible for all the food, ask guests to bring a dish to share. And not only will you save money during the holidays, everyone will enjoy tasting the variety of foods and sharing their recipes.

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Try Secret SantaOleksandra Naumenko/Shutterstock

Try Secret Santa

If you have a large family, try using the Secret Santa method for gifts this year. By only buying one gift, it will relieve some of the financial burden and can also be a fun, new tradition. You can find several different ways to do Secret Santa gifts online. Check out our handyman gift guide.

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Rethink Traditions1000 Words/Shutterstock

Rethink Traditions

Holiday traditions should be memorable because they are fun, not because they're expensive. Look for local Christmas festivals and performances, drive around to see Christmas lights. And go sledding or stay in and watch holiday movies or play board games together. All of these activities are free or relatively inexpensive and will save money during the holidays. Here are 10 things you should know about LED Christmas lights.

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Think Outside the Decoration BoxCourtesy of Neilsamwhite

Think Outside the Decoration Box

If you normally purchase a tree, save money during the holidays by making your own alternative tree. Whether you use reclaimed wood, craft supplies or even wine corks, an alternative tree can save you money and space while still being festive.

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Forget Traditional Christmas CardsAlliance/Shutterstock

Forget Traditional Christmas Cards

Instead of paying for Christmas cards and postage, try sending family and friends e-cards. Many websites offer free e-cards and some can be customized with your family's photos and some even play music.

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Comparison ShopGorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Comparison Shop

When shopping for big-ticket items such as electronics, be sure to comparison shop. And take some time to research the items online and how much they cost at different stores so when you're ready to buy, you know you're getting a bargain.

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Think DIY GiftsAndreyCherkasov/Shutterstock

Think DIY Gifts

Never overlook the value of DIY gifts, they definitely save money during the holidays. If you have a gardener on your gift list, try making them a terrarium. And put together a photo collage, build a plant stand or create an indoor hopscotch mat for a child.

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Intangible GiftsSpeedKingz/Shutterstock

Intangible Gifts

Want to give a gift but have a very tight budget? Try making a meal or baking a pie for a neighbor, or offer a night of babysitting to new parents. And you can even donate your time to shovel their driveway for a couple weeks. Here are 10 great snow removal hacks to try this winter.

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Lighten Up on LightsEric Francis/Shutterstock

Lighten Up on Lights

LED Christmas lights can save you money on electric bills. But those old incandescent lights can cost you $13.65 per month, according to Xcel Energy Colorado. Instead of going all Clark Griswold on your holiday light display, keep it simple and tasteful. Using fewer Christmas lights will save money during the holidays.

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Take a TripMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Take a Trip

Travelers can often find great deals on hotels over the holidays. Depending on your family, you may be able to forgo gifts and instead get away for a few nights and relax by the pool, have a meal together at a nice restaurant and visit a free museum.

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Visit Discount StoresElena Elisseeva/Shutterstock  

Visit Discount Stores

When it comes time to wrap the gifts and stuff stockings, make a trip to the discount store. Dollar stores are a great place to load up on holiday wrapping supplies and tape. And they're also a good place for stocking stuffers such as candy, ornaments and little toys. Spread some holiday cheer with these DIY gift wrap ideas – ribbon you can make in your shop, ingenious wrapping paper storage tricks, and more.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.