Holiday shopping is in full swing. Whether you were an early-birder wrestling your way through Black Friday deals, or if you are a last-minuter who loves braving the malls in late December, you have probably at least started thinking about buying gifts.

Unfortunately – and we know from experience – it’s easy to go over budget and spend more than you’d like in December. From phone apps to spending tips, we’ve put together seven financially sound decisions you can make to stay within budget without sacrificing the holiday cheer you’re used to spreading.

Have some ideas of your own? Contact us and we’ll share them on our social networks.

Here’s to a healthy, happy, and less financially stressed holiday season!

Create Homemade Gifts

No matter your age, people love receiving homemade gifts. Especially if you have a lot of people to buy for, using arts and crafts to created clever presents can go a long way with your family and friends.

Many times people shy away from giving homemade gifts because they seem cheap and tacky. But with a little effort, you can create interesting stocking stuffers and the right present for anyone. And a homemade present done right displays the amount of effort that went into creating it – a true sign of love and holiday spirit.

Check out Pinterest for some great ideas, including slippers, wine-related presents, and much more. Just search for “Homemade Christmas Gifts” to get some inspiration!

Don’t Eat Out

Or try to eat out less, at least!

It’s very easy to spend a quick few bucks for pizza, sandwiches, or Chinese food at the mall or on the go while holiday shopping. Depending on how many times you and your family go out to shop, these dollars can add up fast.

Try to pack sandwiches, snacks, and drinks to take with you so you’re not hungry and less tempted to spend money on food.

Use Layaway

Yes, it still exists! Layaway is a great option for people who do not want to use credit cards to shop for holiday gifts.

Typically, the layaway process starts by you picking out the items you want to purchase as gifts. The store will hold the items for you until you finish paying for them. Sometimes you are required make a down payment, and sometimes you can even choose how much to put down (50%, for instance). You can then make payments over time. Once you pay off the total purchase price, you can pick up your items from the store.

Putting presents on layaway gives you the opportunity to spread out payments, which can make spending less painful.

Here is a list of big retailers with layaway programs, including Toys R Us and Sears.

Develop a Realistic Budget and Shopping List (And Stick to It)

Just like with the rest of your finances, creating a budget is an important step in controlling spending. The same is true for holiday expenditures.

There are various templates from multiple sources you could use, but we recommend creating a simple Excel spread sheet for your budgeting. Make a list of people you need to buy for, how much you can afford spend on each, and (if you know) what you are going to be purchasing for that individual.

Not only does this help you narrow down where to spend your money, it also allows you to avoid over-buying for people (and yourself!)

Leave the Debit Card at Home

If possible, we recommend not using your debit card to shop. The reason is because it’s easy to impulse-buy and quickly swipe a card if you see something you like for yourself or someone else.

Take out the budgeted amount of cash you have for the people you are buying for during that shopping trip, and leave the debit card at home. After all, it’s impossible for you to spend money you don’t have!

Comparison Shop

Comparison shopping has long been a way to save money in retail settings. And in today’s technology-driven world, there are various apps and web applications you can use to comparison shop at any time of year, including the holiday season.

We found an excellent overview of some comparison shopping apps that could help you save money. Some of them are online-based, and others use barcode scanners on your phone to show different prices from different retailers. Most are available on Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

And if you’re a paper-and-pencil person, here is a gift planner price comparison template you can print and use.

If You Must Use a Credit Card…

Sometimes, using a credit card is the best or only option to purchase gifts during the holidays. If you have to use a credit card, here are some tips we hope will help you now and in the long run.

Stay away from the store’s credit card. Often the interest rates on these cards are very high. Even if you shop at the store a lot, it might not be worth opening a new credit line there in the long run – especially if you can secure points on one of your other credit cards.

Use rewards. Put as much as you can on the credit card that has the best rewards. During the holidays you will maximize your rewards much faster. (Here are some credit cards with good rewards packages.) Also, when looking at these cards take notice of those that offer a sign-up bonus, such as “20,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days.” If you can stay disciplined and pay of these credit amounts according to the terms, you can net some excellent rewards.

0% APR cards. If you need a few months to pay off your holiday purchases, you might want to apply for a 0% APR card. You will have the freedom to pay off the balance without incurring interest charges. (Here are some credit cards with low interest rate offers including 0%.)

The ROI Group Staff

Our team of financial services experts has been helping individuals, families, and businesses understand financial options for decades. As part of our mission to expand financial education, we create and share useful financial information broken down into easy to understand terms. This blog is intended to provide users with resources that can help them make sound financial decisions. Pressure not included.

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