How to spend wisely this holiday season

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Christmas tree and gifts

Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals can be hard to beat, but the costs can add up before you realize it. And it isn’t just gifts that make people spend more than what they can actually afford; decorations, groceries and travel costs add up in December, too.

Many consumers will be shopping for holiday gifts on a budget this month. Besides going after what’s in doorbuster ads, check out these five tips for spending wisely this holiday season.

1. Set a budget

The Ohio State University CFAES says that Americans are expected to spend up to an average of $1,440 this year for gifts, holiday decorations and items for themselves, according to a Deloitte annual spending survey.

piggy bank wearing Santa hatTake a look at your monthly budget and decide how much you can spend above that amount. While some consumers turn to credit cards for holiday shopping, setting a budget and using money that’s been set aside for the holidays can avoid the debt.

The first step is to figure out how many gifts you are going to buy and how much money you have to work with. Then, look for bargains. Check store websites for specials and coupons. Another tip OSU CFAES offers is limiting the number of shopping trips to minimize how much you buy.

2. Decide on priorities

It’s possible that you won’t end up having enough money to buy everything you want or need for Christmas. If that happens, prioritize.

If you know you have to buy gifts for several family members, decide which new decorations you can do without. Another way to save money during the holidays is to focus on buying gifts for others instead of items for yourself. America Saves suggests foregoing extra expenses, like eating out and movie tickets, during the holiday season. This money can be put toward buying gifts instead.

3. Consider gift exchanges

Christmas giftsOne way to slash your gift budget is to arrange a gift exchange between family, friends or coworkers. Set a price limit for the gift exchange that fits the budgets of everyone involved. This way, you can join in on the gift giving while keeping your costs down, and putting some money toward other needs.

4. Give homemade and inexpensive gifts

Farm and Dairy online columnist Ivory Harlow has plenty of ideas for homemade gifts that people on your gift list will love. Crafts like ornaments and decorations, homemade bath and beauty products, mason jar crafts and homemade bird houses, seed cakes and suet make great gifts, and the materials don’t cost much. For the cooks on your list, homemade spice blends would be much appreciated.

If there’s a sportsman on your list, Mike Tontimonia gives ideas like membership to an auto club or boat owner’s insurance, or even inexpensive gifts like a DVD, a book or a homemade book of coupons. When it comes to giving to those we love, it’s the thought that counts more than the price tag.

5. Plan for next year

Make a New Year’s resolution now to start putting back money each month for next year’s holiday shopping. OSU CFAES recommends taking the total for this season’s holiday budget, then divide it by 12 so you know how much to set aside each month of 2016. A year from now, you’ll have enough to tackle your gift list.

Do you have any other tips for spending wisely this holiday season? Share them in the comments section below.

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