10 ways to save during the holidays

By Sharon Cook, Contributor | Posted - Nov 20th, 2013 @ 7:09pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Holiday season is right around the corner and we all know how stressful the holidays can be. One factor that adds to the stress of the season is personal finance. Let's face it; we spend quite a bit of money during the holidays on food, travel, and of course on gifts. Here are 10 ways that you can hopefully alleviate some of that stress by saving money this holiday season.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Set a budget and stick to it</span>

It's easy to want to spoil our loved ones with elaborate, and often, expensive gifts; but a strict budget is one of the best ways to put yourself in a position to save money. Be sure to include everything in your budget from gifts to the extras such as travel expenses, shipping, postage, and even decorations.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Get ahead of the season by planning early</span>

One great thing about the holiday season is that it comes at the same time every year. By planning ahead, way ahead, you can begin saving money when the holidays finally roll around. Set up a savings account earmarked for the season and add a little each month and you'll be surprised at how quickly you can save. Also, don't be afraid to get a gift early. Did you see a great gift for your mom in June? Why not buy it then and save it until Christmas? There's no reason to wait until the last minute to buy gifts.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Cash is interest free</span>

It's so easy to swipe a card and forget about it but credit cards have interest that can quickly add up. Try using cash this season so you can make your purchases interest free. Using debit cards or prepaid cash cards is an easy way to pay for purchases with "cash" without having to carry around a wad of bills.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Be mindful of credit card interest</span>

Credit card interest can add up — fast. If you've saved up for the holidays and you know your budget, plan on paying off your credit cards as soon as possible. Many new credit cards have an introductory interest-free grace period of a few months so if you are able to pay off the card's balance before the interest is due you can save quite a bit of money.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Why buy it when you can make it?</span>

Does your family love it when you make peanut brittle or pumpkin bread over the holidays? Is woodworking one of your hobbies? Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that we make with our own two hands. Don't be afraid to make a gift for someone this holiday season.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Purchase gifts online</span>

Cyber Monday has become a part of the holiday lexicon as much as Black Friday and for good reason. Last year Bloomberg Business reported that online sales skyrocketed 17 percent from the previous year. Online retailers schedule sales and discounted shipping deals during the holiday shopping season. So this year, instead of filling up the car with gas and traveling from store to store, try shopping online.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Make a list</span>

Take a tip from Santa, make a list. You don't have to decide who's been naughty or nice but making a list of who you want to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend on each person will make shopping a whole lot easier. Who knows, it might help you free up some more money to buy another gift for a special someone.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Manage your time</span>

The holidays are always hectic. Many people are invited to attend numerous parties and events which can put a dent in the pocketbook. All those dishes you have to make for parties and gifts you have to buy for acquaintances can add up over time, so this year only go to the parties and activities that you really want to.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Use the internet</span>

Besides using the internet for shopping, try using the internet as your holiday resource guide. Want to know where the best deals in town are? Use the internet. Want to find discounts on fun holiday activities? Many local businesses and entertainment venues post last-minute discounts online that you and your family can take advantage of.

<span style="font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#2354ac;">Above all, make time for family</span>

With all the hustle and bustle around the holidays it's easy to forget to take time for family. Staying home and renting movies or playing board games are a great way to have fun without breaking the bank. Start a new tradition. Teach your children how to bake cookies or have them help with dinner. The kids are out of school and chances are, you're on vacation so spend some time at home getting reacquainted with your family. Your wallet, and most of all, your heart will thank you.

Sharon Cook is the senior vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for Mountain America Credit Union

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