Have you ever added up how much you spend on gifts during the holiday months each year? If you do you might be surprised how great it is!

Since 2009, shoppers have been increasing their budgets for holiday spending each year. From $550 in 2012 to $621 in 2016, and has continued to rise ever since.

And the amount above is also only in gifts; it doesn’t include other expenses this time of year, like travel, food for big dinners (like Thanksgiving!), decorations, and more.

Holidays can be expensive, but they don’t have to be if you’re careful about spending and saving for the holidays.

Here are my tips for saving on holiday shopping.

Know when to buy at the best price.

There are better times to buy certain things during the year. This means that to be ready for upcoming holiday spending you could start preparing well before the holiday season begins.

For example, Black Friday deals can be great, and that always happens in November, of course. December can be a good month to buy a car, January can be a good time to buy holiday items on sale (like wrapping paper), March is the best time to buy winter clothes for the following year, and so on.

Starting your holiday shopping much earlier may be the best option as you can avoid stress and save money.

This way you won’t have to go crazy looking for what you’re hoping to buy at the last minute and you’ll be able to take advantage of different offers as they appear throughout the year. If you shop last minute (like the day before), you’ll probably end up buying gifts without thinking too much and paying a little more than normal for them.

Give yourself a budget.

Before you even start shopping, I want you to set a budget to follow. This budget should include all of your holiday purchases.

Here are some areas you may want to include in your holiday spending budget:

  • Gifts
  • Travel costs (for example, if you travel home for the holidays by plane, car, train, boat)
  • Christmas cards, gift wrap items, mail, etc.
  • decorations

This will help you think more about what you’re going to spend this holiday season and realize where you could end up overspending if you’re not careful.

Reduce the number of gifts you give.

Instead of giving one person multiple gifts, you could reduce their stress (and save) by giving fewer gifts. Even give just one gift!

The Secret Santa is always funny.

In line with the advice above, another way to reduce the number of gifts you give is to participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange.

If you celebrate the holidays by giving gifts to family and friends, a good idea is to have a gift exchange where each person only gives one gift to only one person.

This way you can save time and money because you don’t have to give 10 gifts to 10 people and instead you can focus on just one.

Give something made with your own hands.

Looking for the perfect gift for someone but don’t want to spend a ton? Gifting something he made with his own hands is a great way to give something that shows he cares.

You can find great ideas at Last-Minute Holiday Checklist: 4 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season: “Evaluating what gifts you can create from what you already have at home is a smart way to handle last-minute gifts. Do you have extra candles? You can put together a basket. Do you have a picture frame that was never used? Send to print a family photo to fill the frame. Not sure what a distant relative might like? Maybe sending them a letter wishing them good luck or a happy new year would work.”

Enjoy the holidays.

Parties can be expensive and stressful, I completely get that. But try to remember that you don’t have to spend a lot of money at parties to be happy.

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