It's no secret that the holiday season costs people a large chunk of money, what with all the spending on decorating, traveling, meal planning and more. One of the biggest sources of spending is gift-giving. The following are five tips for staying in budget:
1. Make a detailed list.
Write down the names of everyone you'd like to get gifts for and what you have in mind for them. According to Kerry Sherin, a savings expert for Offers.com and contributor to U.S. News & World Report, it also helps to include an estimated dollar amount you'd like to spend for each person, as a reminder not to overspend and send your whole budget off track.
2. Pre-shop online.
"Do some research before you hit the stores. Call around and go online to find better deals. You should also try to consolidate to a few stores to cut down on transportation costs," said Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management and personal finance expert at Good Morning America.
3. Look for additional discounts.
Comparison shopping for traditional sales isn't the only way to get the best deals. Browser extensions such as Ebates and mobile applications like RetailMeNot compile available coupon and discount codes for you based on your location or the product for which you are looking.
You can also create your own discount by simply being aware of various stores' price-matching policies. Many people don't know that stores like Target and Toys "R" Us will match Amazon's and other online retailers' prices online and in store.
4. Start early.
This tip applies to both saving and shopping. Set money aside early so that holiday expenses don't blindside you and your bank account.
"Want to make it almost painless? Set up an automatic deposit to a savings account or Christmas club fund," advised Dana Dratch of Bankrate.com.
By shopping ahead, you can make the most of sales and seasonal pricing trends, picking up certain gifts at bargain prices.
"For people you know you'll be buying gifts for, like parents, siblings or children, keep a running list of things they express interest in. Then, acquire them whenever you can find a good deal or have some extra room in your budget," said personal finance expert Amy Fontinelle on Investopedia.com.
5. Don't use credit cards.
Take advantage of that saved-up money and make your purchases in cash or debit rather than on a credit card. You will spend only what you have available and avoid interest charges.
"When you pay with cash, you have a finite amount of it in hand at any one time. A cash transaction can feel more real, making us spend less freely," The Motley Fool's Selena Maranjian told USA Today.
In fact, Maranjian quoted a Dun & Bradstreet study that found that people spend 12-18 percent more when using charge cards than when paying in cash.
The holidays are about spending time with and celebrating loved ones, not about spending your life savings on presents for them. With a little planning and patience, you can have a happy and memorable season without breaking the bank.