'Tis the Season to Save Money

Most people try to manage their holiday finances, but when it comes down to purchasing gifts, many times we throw caution to the wind and spend a whole lot more than we planned (or can really afford). Do you even know how much money you blew last year between Thanksgiving, splurging on new holiday outfits and Christmas presents? Bet you have no idea! This year, with the unstable job market and crashing stock exchange, being frugal is more important than ever. Here are some tricks to avoiding digging yourself into a crater-sized hole this holiday season:

1. Make a budget! This may seem like simple advice but be sure to include things that don't seem like normal holiday expenses. Planning on buying a new dress for your hubby's fancy holiday office shindig? How about party supplies for your annual New Year's Eve blowout? Include all these other incidental expenses in your budget and set it down on paper where you can reference it throughout the season to remind yourself exactly how much you can spend.

2. Use cash, not credit. It is much easier for us to spend lavishly when we know we don't have to pay the immediate consequence. The only problem with this mentality is that when you purchase things on credit you wind up paying double or triple the amount of the original cost after you add interest charges and credit card fees.

3. Agree to a Secret Santa gift exchange for the adults in your family. You don't want to seem like a Scrooge, but does your man really need another sweater from your Titi to add to his pile? Be honest with your family about being more budget conscious. With a Secret Santa style gift exchange for Christmas, the kids get showered with presents while the adults receive one thoughtful gift. Everybody wins!

4. Set a spending limit and stick to it. Talk with your loved ones about how much you can realistically afford to spend and stick to it. Remember, when it comes to the Holidays, it really is the thought that matters.

5. Start shopping early, or super late. If you know you'll be seeing some loved ones before Christmas day, be sure to handle buying their gifts as early on in the holiday season as possible so you snag the best deals and sales. If you know you won't be seeing some people until after the holidays, wait until the day after Christmas to do your shopping and you'll probably wind up saving 50-75%!

6. Get creative! Honestly, what grandma wouldn't love a beautiful mirrored frame that their grandchildren made, ready stocked with an adorable photo of the kiddies? Or a hand painted flower pot? There are so many different ways that you can get created with home made or hand painted gifts. Plus, your friends and family really will appreciate the time and effort you put into customizing something personal for them.