I know we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday shopping season. I know this isn’t the time to be talking about budgeting and saving money. Anything I say is probably going to fall on deaf ears until after the new year begins. #truthhurtsdontit

I get it. I’ll just keep quiet.

…for now…

DAB NABBIT!!!!

I. Just. Can’t. Help. MYSELF!!!!!

This is probably as comforting as your doctor saying, “Whoa! Never seen that before!” But, trust me; this is important stuff.

Luckily, there is still time!

Refuse to fall victim to the holiday “tradition” of binge spending and the regrets it creates later. By following a few simple tips, you can enjoy the holidays, give within your means, and keep your budget afloat at the same time.

Don’t believe it’s possible? We’ve done it for years, and these tips are sure to help.

Opt Out of Gift Exchanges

If you’re still giving gifts to other adults in your family, STAHP! Opt out of these ridiculous gift-giving arrangements and save yourself the money.

As adults, we all buy what we need anyway…. so, stop wasting your money because your family “requires” you to exchange tube socks and iTunes gift cards. I mean, you’re literally just trading money around for crap you don’t want or need.

Trust me, you’re not the only one who hates buying for other adults either. While everyone continues burning up greenbacks to appease Aunt Susie, chances are good that she is the only one still propping this tradition up. Do everybody a favor, and put the kibosh on this gigantic waste of money. You’ll be the family hero (well, maybe not Susie’s) and everybody will be glad you spoke up.

Give Experience Gifts

If you’re like us, every once in a while you enjoy a thorough junk purge. You know, the kind where you go through every corner of the house and just start chucking stuff into two piles: donate and trash. We just finished one last weekend, and – I don’t know about you – but the last thing I need is another corner full of Shopkins or a drawer packed with tchotchkes.

But let’s face it, the holidays are really for kids. I’m a parent, so I understand that the kids want to have something to open under the tree. Still, there’s no need to go overboard. Instead of giving them a bunch of toys they’ll only play with for five minutes, consider giving experience gifts instead.

This year, we’ll be traveling with the kids on a cruise as part of their gifts. Along the same lines, my parents are taking the whole family to the Wisconsin Dells to celebrate Christmas together. It’s something we can all enjoy, and it’s a great way to build memories together.

However, you don’t have to spend a lot on an experience gift to make it special. Even a day to the children’s museum or a trip to the movies is enough to satisfy most kids (and many adults). All kids really want is a little bit of your time anyway, right?

Make a Donation

Rather than buy a bunch of junk that nobody wants, consider making a donation to a local charity. In the past, we’ve given to our local animal shelter, food bank, local families, and more. While it’s not up to me to spend your money, this can be a sincere way to show you care about someone while helping others.

Just don’t pull a George Costanza and make those donations to “The Human Fund.” That’s not cool, yo. If you’re gonna do this, do it legit.

Contribute to a College Fund

Along the same lines, consider contributing to a child’s college fund as part of their holiday gift. This is a great way to help a child you love, plus it starts to build the “savings mentality” that is such an important part of financial success later in life. Besides that, many of these programs offer some significant tax benefits for your contribution.

If your children or grandchildren don’t have a fund yet, consider starting one for them. A 529 plan or Educational Savings Account are both good ways to save for college. Each of these have pros and cons, so be sure to do some research on which is the better plan in your state.

Holiday Spending Tips

I’m a realist, so I know that you’ll definitely be spending some money during this holiday season. Even so, you don’t have to go into it without a plan. Here are a few more tips that can help you stay afloat this holiday season:

  • Stick to Your Budget – Create a budget for your holiday spending and stick to it. Have both a “total” budget and a per-person budget. (Hot tip: The sum of your per-person budgets should equal your total budget!) Then, track your holiday spending to ensure that you’re following your financial plan.
  • Use Shopping Portals – Online shopping becomes more popular every year, and there are tons of ways you can save. One of my favorites is clicking through shopping portals like Ebates. There, you’ll find coupons and discounts to your favorite stores. You’ll also earn cash back from many of your purchases. Ebates even gives you $10 for getting started. Read our Ebates review to learn more.
  • Stack Your Rewards – Most of us use our credit cards to shop, so why not get rewarded for it? Some cash back cards offer the chance to earn additional cash back for spending in certain categories. During the holiday shopping season, those categories often include places like Amazon.com and department stores. Click through a shopping portal first, and you’ll earn even more cash back! What are you waiting for? Learn more about the best cash back cards here.
  • Earn Extra Money – The holiday season can really put a hurting on your budget if you aren’t careful. However, there are some easy ways you can make extra money without putting in a lot of effort. Survey companies like Survey Junkie are a good way to do it. They’ll never make you rich, but they are perfect for earning a few extra bucks that you can use for your holiday expenses.

Wrapping Up

Yes, the holiday season is here, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget everything you’ve worked so hard to build. Gift giving doesn’t mean throwing your budget out the window. In fact, the opposite is true.

By following these few simple tips, you may save yourself loads of headaches and tons of cash. Better yet, you won’t wake up on January 1st behind the financial 8-ball.

Good luck, and happy holidays my frugal friends!If you're not prepared, the holidays can wreak havoc on your budget. Save money with these gift-giving tips, and avoid the holiday spending blues.