8 Easy Ways To Slash Your Holiday Budget
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Do Your Research

Think about what you'd really like to do on your vacation and create a list to narrow your choices - whether it's hitting the beach, going shopping, climbing a mountain or visiting a museum. Consider whether you can do this somewhere nearby, or whether you know anyone who has done your chosen activities before on a similar budget. Alternatively, travel agencies or even chat rooms on the topic can provide great advice on accommodations, places to dine, things to do and tourist traps to avoid. Internet sites such as Yahoo! Travel, Expedia and Priceline are often useful when seeking reasonable fares.

Ah, the holidays. It's the time of the year when American homes are brimming with turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, eggnog and reindeer sweaters, merry carolers and mistletoe, and of course, excessive spending and impending debt. Some studies show that the average American family spends $1,500 or more each holiday season. However, it is possible to enjoy a very merry holiday season without flushing your finances down the drain. Here are eight simple ways to trim down your holiday budget this year.

Buy In Bulk With A Friend

Consider shopping at a buy-in-bulk warehouse store for your Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Okay, so you probably don't need five pounds of green beans or a case of stuffing. Take a friend or two along with you. You can split the bill and then divvy up the food between your families. (Find out why getting more for less isn't always a great deal in The Dark Side Of Bulk Buying.)

Take A Pass On The Mega-Bird

While you may be tempted to buy the most massive turkey in the bunch, try to be sensible. The rule of thumb is to buy one pound of turkey per person, or two pounds per person if you want lots of leftovers. You'll save money and you won't end up tossing out loads of dried-out turkey a week later.

Throw A Potluck

If you're having family or friends over for a holiday dinner, don't feel like you have to bear the brunt of the cooking. Ask each person to bring a side dish, dessert or appetizer. Not only will you save oodles of cash, but you won't have to spend as much time in the kitchen. (Your holiday party doesn't have to hurt your wallet. Find out how in Host A Holiday Party For Less.)

Get A Head-Start On Shopping

Don't feel like you have to wait to start your Christmas shopping. Hit the stores as soon as possible! The sooner you start searching for gifts, the more time you'll have to bargain hunt.

Hit The Thrift Stores

Don't be ashamed to buy second-hand gifts for your family and friends. Comb through consignment shops, thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets for the perfect present. Not only will you save a bundle, but you may just find some truly unique gifts that aren't available in a typical department store. From antiques and collectibles to vintage jewelry and limited edition books, you could score some seriously distinctive treasures in a second-hand shop.

Give Out Home-Grown Gifts

Consider making gifts for your relatives and friends. Try to get creative and tap into your talents. Are you a gifted painter? Paint a landscape or portrait for your mom and dad to hang in their family room. Are you a fabulous baker? Bake a tasty pie or delicious cookies for your neighbors and friends. Can you knit like a pro? Knit socks, winter hats or sweaters for your nieces and nephews.

Often, a one-of-a-kind home-made gift is even more special than a generic store-bought present. (For more tips, for a bountiful Yuletide on a Scrooge-like budget check out Avoid Overspending This Holiday Season.)

Just Say No To Christmas Cards

If you're strapped for cash this holiday season, just forget about the Christmas cards. While they are a nice gesture, the expenses can add up quickly. First, you have to buy the cards (or have them custom-made with a family photo), and then you have to pay for postage to mail them to family and friends. It's a double-whammy to your wallet. If you simply can't bring yourself to get rid of holiday cards altogether, consider sending e-cards instead. Simply attach your family holiday photo to an email with a clever Christmas message and send it out to all your family and friends. Voila! It's simple and free.

Stick With Last Year's Decorations And Attire

Before you run out and buy all new Christmas décor in this season's hottest holiday colors, take stock of the decorations you already have. Do you really need to all-new wreaths, tree lights and snowman figurines? Probably not. Even if Pottery Barn claims, "Silver and plum are this season's must-have colors!", don't bend under the Christmas catalog pressure. They just want your money. Stick with last year's decorations, and you could save hundreds of dollars.

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