The holidays are upon us, and you know what that can mean — additional expenses and blown budgets. But you can lessen your financial anxiety if you approach the season of giving with a thoughtful holiday savings plan.

Unfortunately, many people throw out their budget during the holidays. MagnifyMoney reported that shoppers who went into debt during the 2018 holiday season borrowed an average of $1,230. What’s worse, 64% did so unexpectedly!

Use the following holiday money saving tips to avoid debt this year — and the stress that comes with it.

1. Make It a Potluck

To save money on food during the holidays, ask everyone to bring a dish. This will help you minimize the huge grocery bill that often comes with hosting. If cooking is part of the fun for you, then let guests pitch in with the extras, like cocktail fixings, desserts or appetizer trays.

2. Get Creative With Gifting

There are ways to minimize the account hit when it comes to gift-giving. Strategies like Secret Santa work great for office parties, get-togethers with extended family and celebrations with friends. Don’t be nervous about asking relatives and friends to change traditions or nix gifting altogether. It’s likely that others are looking to save money, too. Plus, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to focus on the experience of hanging out and celebrating with loved ones. 

3. Make a List … and Check It Twice

For the gifts you must buy, the best money saving tip is to make a plan. Don’t just head to the mall and buy whatever strikes your fancy. While that can be fun, it can also quickly blow your budget. Make a list of the items you want to buy for loved ones. Then do your research online to see where and when you can get the best deal. Think outside the box, too. Did you know life insurance makes a great gift?

4. Shop on Small Business Saturday

Instead of buying the latest gadget for someone, explore local boutiques on Small Business Saturday. You might find unique gifts that will impart more meaning to the receiver, like a piece of artisan jewelry, an eco-friendly bath product or a hand-stitched backpack. Plus, you’ll likely spend less money and feel better about making a purchase that supports your community.

5. Use Rewards Points

One of the best holiday money saving tips revolves around your rewards points. Examine your credit and debit cards rewards systems to redeem gift cards, cash, airline miles and more that you can apply toward holiday spending. You can give gift cards as presents or use them to buy specific items, groceries and even holiday decorations.

6. Use DIY Decor

If you’re a new homeowner or just starting out on your own, you might not have much in the way of holiday decorations. Instead of splurging on new items, think of free ways to jazz up your home. Hang last year’s holiday cards on a ribbon and add the new ones as they arrive. If it’s in your wheelhouse, get on Pinterest and have fun creating DIY projects like pine cone wreaths or tree ornaments.

7. Don’t Fall Prey to Glitz

Sparkly clothing and holiday-themed tchotchkes fill stores this time of year. Avoid impulse buys that will end up at the back of the closet in a few weeks. Or, shop the post-holiday sales when decorations are heavily discounted. If you’re in need of party attire, think of ways to holiday-up an old favorite with a colorful scarf rather than buying a new ensemble. 

8. Take a Trip

Eschew the holidays altogether. Instead of buying gifts and going to gatherings, put your money toward a sensible, fun vacation. If you’re in the Southwest, consider a snowy December trip. Alternatively, those in colder climes might like a long weekend on the beach. Enjoy!

Holiday Budget Concerns Be Gone

Don’t let budget concerns put a damper on your holiday enjoyment. Talk to your Farm Bureau agent today about budgeting and money tips for the holidays and throughout the year.