How To Save Money During The Holidays, Even If It Seems Impossible

The holidays are probably my favorite times of the year. They're filled with cheer and all the cookies that my stomach can handle. But when it comes to the holidays, my bank account can take a heavy hit. However, saving money at the holidays isn't as hard as it seems as long as you know how to manage your money in creative (but surprisingly simple) ways. Between cooking for guests, getting your space ready for visitors or — even more expensive — traveling home for the holidays, money seems to just disappear during this time of year. But it doesn't have to.

While the holiday season can often be the happiest time of year, filled with plenty of opportunities to take a break from work and relax with loved ones, it can also be pretty stressful when it comes to finances to say the very least. But instead of worrying about all the dough you don't have, be honest with yourself and try a few of these financial tricks that will make your holiday (and your bank account) merry and bright. And while everyone deserves a little something, it's also a good idea to have some money in the bank to pay January's rent, amiright?

1. Make A Budget

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I know no one likes to hear that phrase, but your budget needs to be your best friend. For you to be completely realistic with your finances and what you can afford, I would highly suggest taking this step. According to a Forbes article, Mary Hunt, personal finance expert and author of Debt-Proof Your Christmas said that when you budget, you will know the correct amount you can spend for the holidays. But whatever you do, don't use your credit cards. Instead, put them in an envelope so you won't be tempted to use them. This will defuse any future financial problems and you won't start the new year in a financial rut.

2. Make Something Instead

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Some of the best gifts I have ever received have been gifts that my friends have made. They are usually practical, and I know that they have taken the time to really put some thought into them. Don't stress about buying the most extravagant gift. Most of the time, the best gifts are the ones you make, like homemade cookies or a painting. Use your secret talents to craft up something beautiful for your loved ones this year. I'm pretty sure they will love it.

3. Don't Feel Pressured To Host Any Parties

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During the holidays, a lot of your money can go straight to hosting holiday dinner parties. While they are a fun way to bring people together, it can really burn a hole in your wallet. If anything, try and see if someone else can host this year or instead of cooking a whole holiday meal, turn the dinner into a pot lock. My friends and I did this for Friendsgiving and it was great because everyone brought a piece of their home cooking with them to the dinner table.

4. Get Creative With Your Decorations

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Before I moved to New York, I never realized how expensive a Christmas tree could be. But instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a tree we couldn't afford, we put a fake Charlie Brown tree in the house — and honestly, we loved it. If you're not #TeamWimpyTree, then try crafting a tree of your own. Bring out your inner Martha Stewart and craft some of the best DIY Christmas trees and decorations your heart can muster. It will cost less than a real tree, but it will look just as good.

5. Be A Part Of Secret Santa

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If you can't afford everyone on the list, why don't you suggest doing a Secret Santa with your friends and family instead? My boyfriend's family and I do this every year. We set a limit of how much we are allowed to spend on that individual person and that person doesn't find out who their Secret Santa is until day of. This method will save you so much money because usually the limit is no higher than $50. To make it easy, you can use the website, Elfster, for a digital way to choose your Secret Santa. You just type up all the names and then the website let's everyone knows who they need to buy presents for. It's really that easy.

6. Start Saving Early

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Your best bet is to start saving early. I know this is a little late to say, but this tip is good for next year. You don't need to stress when you have a system of putting away money months before the big day. You know this day is going to come every year, so why wait till the last moment? Take an envelope and put away as little as $5 (or whatever number you choose). You will be surprised how much money you will have to spend once the holidays come around. According to About Life Inc., a study by The National Retail Federation, states that people who start shopping for the holidays before November can save $400 for taking advantage of early discounts. With all that money you save, you can put that back in savings, or you know, buy yourself a little gift.

The holidays shouldn't stress you out. Remember, it's the time of year to enjoy with your loved ones and not worry about work. Take this time to think about these alternatives when it comes to saving money and hopefully prevent you from using your credit cards.

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