What is it about the winter holidays that brings out the best and worst of us? Not to mention the fact that we all know what’s coming, but then act surprised at how expensive this time of year can be?

Is it really “the most wonderful time of the year” if it means going into debt?

Here are some tips to save money during the winter holidays (and hopefully your sanity too):

1. Create a budget. Ok, so I know this sounds a little “duh”, but many of us skip over this advice. If you have a month or two before the holiday season takes full effect, decide how much you want to spend and divide that by the number of weeks until your holiday. So if you want to spend $500 for Christmas, and have 8 weeks to save, you need to put aside $62.50 each week.

2. Take inventory. What’s your wrapping paper situation? Do you have some random small items that could be repurposed into stocking stuffers, white elephant party items, or gifts for co-workers?

3. Make a list. Write out each person you need to give a gift to and decide how much you want to spend on them.

4. Create a theme. This idea comes from my best friend. As a single woman, she has to buy gifts for everyone in her family and their partners – which can come with a hefty price tag. So she picks a theme (like “Spirit of Christmas”, or “California Christmas”), and everyone gets gifts based on the theme. For instance, for “Spirit of Christmas” entailed whiskey-flavored toothpicks, ghost-themed socks, and tiny bottles of booze. Everyone gets a gift that fits the theme, is practical, and is memorable. This idea keeps the gift-buying costs lower too.

5. Get intentional about donations. The holiday season is a major time for charities, your child’s school, and your friends’ Facebook pages to be asking for donations. Decide in advance which organization(s) you want to donate to and how much. While it is awesome to be generous, don’t strain yourself in the long run. And always check out any organization before you donate by reviewing how your donation will be used.

6. Keep a wish list of your own. You will be asked what you want for the holidays, and absolutely everyone is frustrated by the response, “Oh, I’m easy. Whatever you get me is fine.” It might be true but adds stress to an already stressful time. Instead, keep a list of items small and large that you would otherwise impulse buy. Whenever someone asks you what you want, share the list. On my wish list right now, I have attachments for my Kitchenaid mixer, an inflatable bathtub pillow, postage stamps (I send a lot of mail), my favorite retinol serum, and a subscription to an online game. Plus, whatever you do receive means you don’t have to buy it yourself later.

7. Plan ahead for the next year. Going into debt every year for the holidays does not have to be your reality. Start putting a small amount from each paycheck into a sinking fund labeled “Christmas Fund” or “Holiday Fund”, or whatever makes the most sense for you. Even $20 a paycheck can mean a nice cushion of savings to keep you out of debt and a little less stressed.

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