Christmas is an incredibly expensive time of year. You’ve got lots of friends and family you need to buy gifts for, decorations to put up, and meals to prep. If your budget is already tight, you might be feeling some financial strain.
Fortunately, there are ways to make the most out of the holidays, even if it’s with limited cash. Here are the best tech tools, websites, and apps to help you get through Christmas on a budget.
1. Get Sale Alerts From Your Local Grocery Store
A really easy thing that you can do to save money over the holidays is to use an app or email notification service that gives you daily updates on holiday-themed sales at your local grocery store.
This not only helps you cut back on your own food costs but allows you to budget for holiday guests, too.
If you’re looking for sales from your grocery store, you can still grab one of the printed flyers in-store, which will give you a roundup on what will be available next week.
However, downloading a grocery store app will often give you access to additional benefits. The apps that you need to use will vary, depending on which region you live in and what stores you go to.
For example: My app would be “Safeway Deals & Rewards,” available for Android and iOS.
To find your own app, either go to your app store directly or type your grocery store name into Google. Next, add your phone type (iOS or Android), plus the word “app.” Google should pull up the app associated with your grocery store of choice.
2. Shop on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Another Winter Sale
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It should go without saying, but shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday has become somewhat of a tradition in North America. If you want to find a good gift deal for your friends or family, it’s a great time to go shopping.
If you miss Black Friday or Cyber Monday, no worries. There are often rolling sales for retail goods all throughout the month of December.
Amazon is an obvious choice for sales. We have a handy list of Amazon features and services, too—so you know which service to use for sales and when. But Amazon is not the only online retailer that will have multiple sales leading up to the holidays.
Another option for on-sale Christmas gift ideas is Steam. Through this service, you can either give a “Steam Gift” to another player, buy a discounted game during a sale, or send a gift card to someone. It’s the perfect choice for your gaming friend or family member.
3. Use Finance or Budget-Tracking Apps
Finance or budget-tracking apps are a good thing to use year round, but they’re especially useful when you need to track down what you’re spending and where during expense-heavy months like December.
The idea behind a budget app is that if you know where your money is going, the better equipped you’ll be to stretch your budget further.
Mint: Budget Tracker & Planner and Goodbudget Budget Planner are great choices for budget-tracking apps. Both of them are available on iOS and Android.
On these apps, you can calculate how much you have to spend each month in total, along with how much money you can allot to specific tasks or categories, like gift-giving. They can also help you keep track of hidden or often-overlooked daily expenses that might be cutting into your holiday plans.
Download: Mint Budget Tracker & Planner for Android | iOS (Free)
Download: Goodbudget Budget Planner for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
4. Use DIY Blogs to Make Christmas Gifts
So let’s say you’ve been tracking your budget, and you’ve learned that even if you manage your finances, a lot of these pre-bought gifts are still out of your price range.
Or let’s say the person you’re buying a gift for really loves unique items, to begin with. Maybe they want you to add a personal touch.
Another way that you can save money over the holidays is by making your own gifts from scratch. This “DIY” approach requires that you have time to make these gifts, of course, along with the skills. Fortunately, there are tons of DIY blogs out there that will give you Christmas gift ideas that work well on a budget.
A great place to start? The DIY Network’s Holidays and Occasions section, which talks about different homemade creations that you can make.
Another way that you can find great gift ideas is by searching “DIY gifts” on Pinterest. If you’ve never visited the site before, here’s a good rundown on what Pinterest is and how to use it.
5. Use Secret Santa Games to Keep Everyone Happy
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Sometimes, even with all this budgeting and DIY gifts, you’ll find you’re still too stretched for time or cash. Maybe there are just too many people to make gifts for, and because your friend circle is so large, other people are struggling, too.
When it comes to situations like these—and everyone’s struggling—sometimes it’s best to institute a Secret Santa game, to keep gift-giving manageable.
Secret Santa is a game where everyone gives one another a gift, but the gift-giver remains anonymous. It’s a gift-giving technique that is popular in workplace settings when you want to keep your budget low.
If you need some help trying this idea out, there are a lot of Secret Santa name generators out there. Elfster is one of the top-rated. It also has an accompanying app.
Download: Elfster on Android | iOS (Free)
6. Find a Good Deal on a Christmas Tree
Lastly, one of the biggest worries for Christmas is the Christmas trees itself.
What are you going to do about the Christmas tree, if you don’t have one yet and you’re on a budget? Even worse, how do you decorate a Christmas tree on a budget?
While real Christmas trees are beautiful, they might not be feasible for you and your family because of allergies. To combat this, artificial Christmas trees can be a good alternative, but they can also get expensive.
The same goes for Christmas tree decorations, which take time to collect if you don’t want to spend a ton of money all at once.
Amazon has lots of Christmas tree options. If you’re looking for a tree or Christmas decorations on a budget—and you don’t want to shop at Amazon—Wayfair is another easy, affordable option, too.
Lastly, while most Christmas decorations will not go on sale until after Christmas, you can find moderately priced ones if you hunt for them. Amazon and Wayfair are once again good sites to find Christmas decorations on a budget.
You might also be able to find brick-and-mortar stores in your area that sell discounted items, too.
Have a Merry, Stress-Free Christmas
These tech tools, websites, and apps will not necessarily guarantee that you’ll have no extra expenses over the holidays. It might not be feasible for you to implement all these budget-saving tips at once, too.
However, even if you use just a couple of these suggestions, you might be able to cut down on your costs. Looking for other ways that you can make the winter holidays magical? Here are the best sites for genuinely unique Christmas gifts.
Read the full article: How to Save Money Over the Christmas Holidays: 6 Apps and Sites