1. Decide how much you can spend: Ric Edelman, author of Financial Security in Troubled Times, said most people go about their holiday budget the wrong way. The first thing they do is come up with a list of people they are going to buy for. Instead we should set our holiday budgets before we make any lists or even go near any stores. Remember don't overlook the little extras when you are drafting your budget, things like postage for Christmas cards, holiday party favors and home decorations and of course, tape, ribbon and wrapping paper can add up too!
2. Make a list and check it twice: After creating your budget, now you can make a list of people you are going to buy for. Make sure you go over the list and decide how much you are going to spend on each person. If you go over budget, check your list again, cut names or amounts. Once you settle on that dollar amount for each person that's it! Just focus on the amount you are going to spend, not on what you are going to buy.
3. Pay with cash: If you don't want to take the risk using credit cards, do a cash-only Christmas. Set a limit, take that money out of your credit union or bank, and when that money is gone, it's over!
4. Think of credit cards as short-term loans: If you are using a credit car, ideally you will want to pay if off immediately. If you have a choice of cards, always use the one that offers the lowest interest rates. Just make sure you keep track of what you are spending.
5. Put yourself on your shopping list: This may seem silly, but it's really smart. Give yourself a little splurge too.
6. Allow enough time for all your holiday preparations: Who hasn't run out for a gift at the last minute and ended up paying top dollar? Whether you are shopping, baking or wrapping presents to send cross-country, budgeting your time can end up saving you tons of money.
7. Don't overlook the value of intangibles: Do you want to give someone a gift, but don't have the money? If you are already baking cookies for your family, making an extra batch as a present for a neighbor is fairly economical. Want to help a friend who has a lot on their plate? Offer to baby-sit, walk the dog or wrap some gifts. The cost is next to nothing, but the gift is priceless.
8. Send e-cards: This is a great idea for holiday cards. They're free, don't require postage and no one has to wash their hands after opening them.
9. Just say 'no' to toy lust: If your kids still believe in Santa, help them draft real-world wish lists. Give them choices, allowing the child to choose.
10. Look for meaning over glitz: A thoughtful gift can be anything as simple as a set of dice to a few beautiful bottles collected for minimum cost at various flea markets or antique marts. This is great for the person who already has everything, words and gestures can mean more.
11. Shop prices, not sales: You are going to see 'Sale' signs everywhere you go. Unless you know the relative value, don't be fooled. Just because it is on sale doesn't mean it's a bargain."
12. Give to charities: With everything that is going on in the world right now, we have plenty of opportunities to give to charities that benefit someone who is in need. Think about making a donation to a charity in the name of people for whom you would have provided a gift. The benefit: You'll spend less, tax deduction and you'll restore the true meaning of Christmas.
13. Buy last year's model: Since stores are already pushing next year's products, this year's models or merchandise is up to 30-40% off.
Even though this is a busy time of year where it may seem like all you are doing is spending money, there are also ways to save. Make sure to be smart this holiday season and do what works best for you. Let us know what saving holiday tricks you know!