The holidays are one of the most expensive times of year. Here are 6 great ways you can spend less this holiday season to avoid a stressful January.

1. Set up your holiday budget EARLY

The first thing everyone reading this should do is set up their holiday budget. Really - do this right now. It doesn't have to be a detailed, line by line, person by person budget. Just know how much you can spend, and set a limit for yourself. Keep it simple and you might actually stick to it. Follow these steps to know what you can afford:

  • Take a look at your bank account. How much money is there? Are there any credit card debts? Add up your total savings and total credit card debt and come up with a number.
  • Calculate your total monthly expenses using a simple budget tool. Multiply that budget amount by the number of months until the holidays.
  • Head over to the Christmas countdown. Calculate how much money you're going to earn between now and the Big Day.
  • Add together your total earnings, plus your total assets, and subtract your total expenses. If this number is negative, consider taking it easy this Christmas. Otherwise, 1 weeks pay is a reasonable maximum gift budget.

2. Buy your gifts EARLY

A great way to spend less on gifts is to buy them early. If you're always thinking about buying gifts, you can use tools like SlickDeals to buy items as cheaply as possible. You'll also be able to put thought into what you're giving, so you don't end up splurging on a big ticket item last-minute out of guilt. Yes, I have learned this from experience.

3. Make gifts instead of buying them

Making gifts yourself can save you a bundle of cash. Nowadays there is a bounty of incredible DIY ideas online, many of which can be completed for next to nothing. Check out this killer Pinterest page for a few Instagram-worthy gifts.

For less social-media focused individuals, take a look at this post for some easier suggestions.

Not only are these DIY ideas cheap, but the recipient will definitely appreciate the effort and thought you put into creating it.

4. Use second hand marketplaces

Buying necessities from second hand sites is a very reliable way to save money. I'm not suggesting you buy gifts from these sites, but for holiday necessities, these sites can help you save a lot of money.

There are a lot of sites out there, but our favorites are:

  • Letgo. Letgo is great because the people seem more real. You get a lot less sketchy folks on here trying to hawk iPhone screen repair. We've also received a fair amount of free items from here.
  • Craigslist. Ah, Craigslist. Whatever you want to buy used, Craigslist will have it, but the person you have to deal with on the other end may or may not be catfishing you. Still, you can save big money by buying things here.
  • Neighbourly. Though a little less popular, Neighbourly helps people in your local community talk to one another. You'll often find friendly nearby folks giving away items or offering to help out. Highly recommended if it's available in your area.

5. Celebrate a few days later

Just after December 25th, almost every store has a huge sale on almost everything they've got. If you celebrate just a few days late, you can purchase many items at big discounts. Also, you can benefit from second hand marketplaces where people sell their unwanted gifts for big discounts. I've picked up several tools this way, where a Grandma will buy a tool set for a grandson not knowing that he's actually a software engineer, not a mechanic.

6. Make your cards and wrapping paper yourself

Greeting card and wrapping prices are pretty ridiculous. For just one card, I've spent $8. Yes, they have noise-makers and funny jokes, but it's just a piece of paper. I have 9 people I need to purchase greeting cards for, which could exceed $70, just in cards! That's crazy.

Here are some great DIY resources that'll help you to make your cards and wrapping paper yourself to save a bundle of money.

  • Here are 18 DIY greeting cards from Brit+co (link)
  • Here's a more detailed guide to create a high-quality card from old mail (link)
  • Here's 25 fairly straightforward ways to create your own wrapping paper on the cheap. Some are very pretty (link)

Thanks for reading. If you're interested in saving money, join our Facebook group to engage with a community of savers.