Here are some ideas to make the season a little less painful financially:
1. Declare a moratorium on gift-giving if you're in dire financial straits, OR
2. Consider inexpensive gifts, such as:
- Homemade baked goods in a festive tin (try the Dollar Tree or Dollar Store for tins)
- Handmade gifts if you're of an artistic or crafty bent
- A creative collage of photos that include your family and/or friends
- A heartfelt letter to someone describing how much they mean to you.
4a. Use after-Christmas sales to stock up on wrapping paper, cards, etc.
4b. Consider a Restaurant.com certificate. They sometimes have 60-90% off sales, which means you can score a $20 certificate for $2. Caveat: These certificates often require a minimum purchase amount from the diner--they may have to spend $30 or more dollars before applying the certificate. For more information, go to Restaurant.com.
For other gift-giving tips, see this entry on the "Get Rich Slowly" blog.
5a. Before running out to buy the latest gadget, consider selling your outdated items (cameras, cell phones, etc.) on eBay first. Don't have an eBay account? Ask a friend or loved one who does to help you out--and give them part of the profit. Put the proceeds towards your new item.
5b. Better yet, calculate the cost of buying the gadget for the first two years and consider down-sizing. Example: an iPhone can cost between $2,000-2,500 in the first two years (depending on the phone model and your calling/data plan). By contrast, an iPod Touch (which has many of the same apps) costs only a few hundred dollars....or less, if you get a refurbished model.
6. Before buying any new clothes, prune your wardrobe. Check for duplicates. How many pairs of black pants do you really need?
7. Don't buy retail: Have a clothing swap with a good friend who is your size, or try thrift stores and eBay.
Food and drink
8. Love Starbucks holiday drinks? Consider making your own gingerbread syrup.
9. Carry water and small, inexpensive snacks with you (fruit, granola bar, etc.) to avoid making fast-food stops.
10. Avoid the grocery store for a week and eat the canned items in the back of your cupboard instead.
11. Pack lightly to avoid fees.
12. Pack small snacks to avoid expensive airport food.
13. Use sites such as Hotwire.com and Kayak.com to save on airfare, hotels and rental cars.
14. Traveling by car? Stay under the speed limit and keep tires properly inflated to maximize your gas mileage.
15. If at all possible, have relatives or loved ones come visit you instead.
16. Combine errands to cut down on trips. Consider carpooling with a co-worker or classmate if you're not doing so already.
15a. Ask for a lower interest rate if you haven't missed a payment in a long time. With the recession, many creditors are, unfortunately, raising interest rates--but it can't hurt to ask.
15b. Automate your bill-paying to avoid late fees. Watch out for the 28-day cycle--one month your bill is due the 13th, the next month on the 11th, etc.
16. Ask family and friends to help you save money towards a long-term goal. SmartyPig.com combines social networking and savings (note: this is not an endorsement of the site).
Beauty & Household
17. Baking soda can be used as a facial scrub.
18. Crushed-up aspirin and a facial toner can be a good mask for acne-prone skin.
19. Baking soda and vinegar can clean most household areas.
20. Use washcloths instead of paper towels.
21. Time your showers to use less hot water.
22. Downgrade to basic cable.
23. Use NetFlix or your library card instead of going to the movies.
24. Read library books or--if you *must* have the latest bestseller, try Amazon--you can often get 30% off.
25. Sell old (but clean and non-damaged) clothing on eBay, or donate the items for a tax deduction.
What are some of your favorite money-saving tips? Share them in the comments below.