How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Going Broke

The holidays may be the time for rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but all those festivities can carry a hefty price tag. If you’re like me, the holidays mean new party gear, visits to friends and family (hello, gas and airfare!) and lots and lots of presents. All that celebrating can wreak havoc on your wallet. However, it’s possible to cut your spending and still enjoy the holidays in style. Here are some ideas to spread the Christmas cheer without going broke by New Year’s Eve.

Cut Down on Gifts

Of course you want to show your friends and family how much you care, but you don’t need to max out your credit cards to do that. Try organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange, so that you’re only buying a gift for one person in your circle. After Hurricane Sandy, my family decided to make donations to charities instead of buying gifts for each other. This was a meaningful way to give back during the holidays, and it also kept us from spending money on individual gifts. Also, don’t go crazy on the gifts themselves – you don’t need to buy your best friend a $50 iTunes gift card to show her you care. Talk to your besties about your budget woes and agree to set limits on gifts this year. And remember that sometimes intangibles make the best gifts. Offering to watch a friend’s cat while she’s on vacation is a cheap way to show your love while relieving her holiday stress.

Take a “Staycation”

You’ve got some time off – isn’t that the perfect reason to jetset off to Cabo or take a snowboarding trip with your friends? Not if you’re struggling to pay your rent or student loans. Save some money and take a staycation this season, while relaxing and doing all those things you never get to do in your own city. My first Christmas after college, I decided to explore my neighborhood in New York City and fell in love with a couple of museums. You can visit galleries, get started on that manuscript you’ve been talking about writing, or just book a massage and a Mani-Pedi. You’ll save a fortune on airfare, hotels and gas – and avoid all the craziness at the airport.

If You Must Travel, Travel Smart

If you have to hit the road or take to the air, plan ahead to save big bucks. Baggage fees at the airport are out of control. Instead, consider using a shipping service to send your presents or suitcases to your destination. Pack food for your trip instead of buying meals on the plane or stopping at greasy fast-food joints on the road. Use a Smartphone app to find the cheapest gas stations, and consider crashing with family or friends instead of paying for a hotel.

There’s no way to avoid all the expense of the holidays, unless you want to be a total Scrooge and miss out on all the fun. But with a little advance planning, you can deck the halls without blowing your budget. Now, that’s certain to make the season bright!