It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the holidays also have a tendency to put a serious dent in our bank account. That’s why we pulled together this savings guide to help you get through the 25 days leading up to Christmas. You got this.
If You’re Gift Giving
Friends don’t let friends spend too much on wrapping paper
A $5 roll of kraft paper (and some $3 candy-cane-colored baker’s twine) is a chic way to wrap gifts—or wine—on the cheap.
Encourage your extended family to opt in for a Secret Santa exchange with a spending limit (say, $50). The website Draw Names will help keep it a surprise—and you’ll all save yourselves from shelling out too much on random (and mediocre) gifts.
Start a running list on paper (or in the Notes app on your iPhone) of all the people you need to shop for. Include their sizes and a spending cap. This will save you from return trips to the store (hey, gas adds up) and impulse buys at the register.
Use a shopping app like Flipp to keep tabs on store discounts. The app screenshots every single promotional flyer that goes out, so you can “clip” coupons digitally for a major savings score.
Follow your favorite brands for gift giving on Facebook and Instagram before you hit the mall. If stores are going to announce in-store holiday promotions, they’ll usually share them on social media first.
If You’re Entertaining
All hail cheese on the cheap
Gather your friends for a BYOC (bring your own cheese) holiday get-together at home, a way more economical plan than meeting for pricey hors d’oeuvres at a local restaurant or bar.
Before you hit the grocery store, take inventory of everything in your fridge and cupboards—things like spices, butter, flour and such. You’ll shave tens of dollars off your tab at the register (and save your sanity, too).
If you know you'll be hosting a crowd, don’t waste your money stocking a full bar. Instead, mix up a thrifty holiday-themed punch. Some sparkling wine + a couple of cups of vodka = party drink served.
Deck the halls with strands of white fairy lights. They’re usually on sale in bulk this time of year and can make your home feel merry and bright without breaking the bank.
If you’re suddenly expecting a larger crowd for a holiday meal or party, borrow—don’t buy or rent—extra tables or chairs. (After all, you know Aunt Sheila lives to help.)
Always haggle to reduce the cost of your Christmas tree. Having a sense of humor helps when you make the request. You should be able to cut the cost of that 12-foot balsam fir by at least $10.
If You’re Traveling
Gas prices are the worst
Call your credit-card company and ask about perks before you hit the road. You might discover that your Visa covers your car rental insurance. Or your Amex Platinum gets you a $200 credit toward baggage fees. (Hey, it never hurts to ask.)
If you’re going the Airbnb route, it’s worth shooting your potential host an email to see if you can negotiate the rate. If they’re not booked, they may offer to lower the rate by as much as 25 percent.
Be sure you’re signed up for the rewards program if you’re staying at a hotel. Why? Loyalty pays—and can result in free upgrades and room discounts every time you book a room.
Save money—and lighten the load in your suitcase—by taking advantage of free shipping day. All gift orders are guaranteed by Christmas and you won’t have to pay extra on baggage fees if you’re flying.(Unless, of course, your credit card has you covered—then you’re set.)
Download Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices based on your current location. (Another feature: You can use it to plan ahead by checking the average price of gas along your intended route.)
Prep and pack some turkey subs, snacks and water bottles for the road. It will cost way less (and taste way better) than anything you’ll find at a rest stop.
Use Google Maps to route around tolls…and holiday traffic. Just click the drop-down menu next to Your Location. Then select Route Options and toggle on the button that says Avoid Tolls. Back roads always win.
If You’re Party Hopping
Eat, drink and be merry (for less)
Hostess gifts—like a bottle of wine or Champagne—are best bought in bulk. Buy your Cab Sauv by the case versus the bottle and you’ll shave at least 10 percent off the usual cost. Score.
’Tis the season for DIY festive manicures. Just promise you won’t go anywhere near the dishes until your fave holiday red is really (really) dry.
Eat dinner at home before you hit up happy hour, and then order your drinks at the bar (and pay as you go)to avoid getting stuck splitting a hefty bar tab down the middle. (The worst.)
Save on dry cleaning by spot treating stains on your favorite party dress at home. Trust us—unless the garment is silk, red wine stains are a lot easier to remove than you think. (Just use club soda and salt.)
Shop your closet and repurpose that velvet dress you bought and wore once so many years ago. No need to shell out on new styles when fashion trends of the past keep resurfacing.