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Don’t let the holidays leave your wallet empty

Decking the halls, putting presents under the tree and hosting friends and family make the holidays special, but they can also take a toll on your budget. Since many families are feeling a financial pinch these days, it can seem almost impossible to enjoy the season to the fullest.

The good news is that spending quality time with loved ones is the most important – and least expensive – thing you can do. Keep that in mind and it’ll be easy to get into the spirit of things. But to make the days even merrier, consider these cost-saving tips for holiday niceties and necessities.

* Set a few different budgets. Taking all your money from one source can make it difficult to limit spending on things like gifts and meals. Draw up multiple budget plans – one for presents, one for decorations, and one for food and drink expenditures. It’ll be easier to keep track of where your cash is going – and therefore easier to avoid overspending.

* Think big. You’re dealing with a lot of people during the holidays, whether it’s the group you’ll invite over for a holiday dinner or the far-flung friends to whom you’ll send cards and other greetings. By placing large orders, you can sometimes save money. That’s true in the case of ordering Christmas cards – the price per card often goes down the more you order. When it comes to cooking, buying ingredients in bulk can also help offset costs.

* Avoid the urge to use credit cards. While stretched budgets are as common during the holidays as Christmas cookies and carols, try not to give into the urge to charge your purchases – unless you have the ability to pay off the balance when your next statement comes. The interest rates and other fees that come along with credit cards can add unnecessary financial stress.

* Recycle and reinvent. Though the shops are crowded with aisles of new decorations, you’ll save money by going through your existing stash. If there are boxes that haven’t even been opened in a few years, open them up and look for new ways to style older items. For instance, if you have plain glass bulbs for the tree, consider giving them an update – and a personal touch – by painting on new designs with gold or silver metallic paint.

Your holidays can be as merry and bright as ever, even on a budget. If you look for ways to save on everything from photo Christmas cards to the flour that goes into your famous cookies, you’ll have that much more to celebrate.

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