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Though the holiday season is supposed to spread cheer and lift our spirits, the dreaded rush of last-minute gift shopping tends to send stress levels soaring instead. However, make this year’s experience a little more merry and bright with our helpful holiday spending tips meant for you to stick to a budget. Here are some of our favorite methods to save your wallet and your sanity.

Start Shopping Early 

Waiting until the last minute to do all your Christmas shopping definitely won’t help you stay on budget or save you any money in the process. Instead, keep an eye out for potential presents all year long while searching through sales and clearance racks. More specifically, January provides great clearance deals as stores are trying to get rid of holiday overstock. To set a relatively reliable budget ahead of time, look at Christmas spending over past years and learn from what worked and what didn’t.    

Make Your Own Presents 

Buy in bulk to score better deals on items offered in higher quantities, then split and mix them up to create gift basket sets. You can even give your baskets different themes like a spa day with candles and face masks or a movie theme incorporating their favorite film-inspired goodies for a personal touch. Printable photo gifts are also a great way to show someone you care without spending a fortune. Frame or make an online photo book of their favorite memories or shop handmade gifts on sites like Etsy for engravable jewelry or even kitchen essentials. This way, your gift is still just as thoughtful — only someone else is doing the heavy DIY lifting. Keep in mind sometimes these gifts have to be ordered a bit further in advance to account for creation and shipping time, but with some searching, beautiful items are available for around $30 or under.

Take Advantage of Reward Points and Coupon Codes

If you start your holiday shopping early enough, you may be able to receive some money back in the form of gift cards and rewards points. See which of your credit cards offers points back on purchases or a certain cash back percentage so you can optimize your spending and use those points to purchase more presents at a lower cost. If you’re gift shopping online, look to install apps on your computer like Honey that automatically searches the web for applicable coupon codes to save you money at checkout so you barely lift a finger. Along with Honey, try checking out our exclusive member discounts and perks to save on non tangible gifts for a fun experience that won’t get stuck lying around the house.  

Pay for Gifts in Cash 

If credit cards aren’t your thing, or maybe they’re too much your thing, take some time to set aside a certain amount of cash you’re willing to spend on gifts all together. Having to physically watch how much money you’re spending each time you hand over paper instead of plastic makes it easier to stay on budget. 

Resist the Urge to Self Shop  

It’s all too easy to see one (or maybe 20) things while out shopping for others that you want to buy and take home with you. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty every now and then of snatching something up for ourselves, but instead of impulse buying, wait it out and add it to your own Christmas wish list. Make a note of where you saw it, and pass it on as this makes other peoples Christmas shopping easier as well.

Whether you’re purchasing presents for the whole family or just a couple close loved ones, put yourself in the best spot to stick to your budget by taking advantage of the tips listed above. To start saving for this year and years to come, open up a savings account with Greater Niagara FCU.