The holidays are upon us – and many people are concerned with the expense that comes with the season of giving. That doesn’t have to happen if you approach tinsel time with a thoughtful holiday savings plan. Unfortunately, many people throw out the budget during the holidays. MarketWatch researched shoppers who went into debt during the holidays in 2016 and found they borrowed $1,000 on average. What’s worse is that 65 percent did so unexpectedly!

Using the following holiday savings tips you can avoid debt this year — and the stress that comes with it.

 

1. Go potluck style

If you’re wondering how to save money on food during the holidays, look no further. Asking everyone to bring a dish can help you get around the huge grocery bill that often comes with hosting. Of course, 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

Find ways to minimize the account hit when it comes to gift-giving at gatherings. Strategies like Secret Santa work great for the office party as well as get-togethers with your extended family. Don’t be nervous about asking relatives to change traditions or nix gifting altogether. Likely many others are looking for ways to save money too. Do the same with your friends group and just enjoy the experience of hanging out.

3. Make a list … and check it twice

For the gifts you must buy, make a plan. Don’t just head to the mall and see what strikes your fancy. While that can be fun, it can also quickly blow your budget. Think 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 that life insurance makes a great gift?

4. Embrace the small business

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

5. Use rewards points

Examine your credit and debit card rewards systems to see where you can 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

You can also 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 the cold New England might like a long weekend on the beach. Enjoy!

 

The holidays are a fun and exciting time. Don’t let budget concerns put a damper on your holiday enjoyment. Your Farm Bureau agent has budgeting tips that you can use now or any time throughout the year.