The holiday season is upon us, and for many, that can mean feeling stressed and financially strained.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans admit that they fail to budget appropriately for the holidays. According to Forbes magazine, the average consumer racks up more than $1,000 in new debt each year.

From decorations to presents, everything has a price tag. Planning for these expenses will allow you to stay on track with your budget, enjoy the holidays, and start the new year off on the right financial footing.

Saving money during the holidays can be tricky, but we’ve put together these five tips to help you do just that.

Consider Lightening the Financial Load of Holiday Traditions.

Donations

The holiday season is a time of goodwill, and naturally, you want to support organizations that serve others in times of need. But what if you simply don’t have the extra cash to donate?  Ever heard the phrase, “Time is money?”  Consider donating your time and volunteering instead. Not everyone can write a large check, but you could give the use of your time and skills by serving at the charity. Serving together as a family can be far more satisfying and memorable than merely making a cash donation.

Holiday Dinners and Parties

Everyone loves getting together around the table for a great holiday meal or attending a fabulous holiday party. Far less enjoyable is the cost of purchasing all the refreshments, liquor, and desserts. For the past several years, our family has opted for a potluck dinner. A few weeks before Christmas I send out an email reminding each family to choose a category (appetizers, sides, desserts). The teenagers and kids are in charge of coming up with entertainment. Not only has embracing potluck saved us money, but it has also allowed us all to spend more time together and less time in the kitchen. As an added culinary bonus, everyone brings their 5-star recipes and basks in the glory of rave reviews by appreciative diners.

Traditions

Holidays traditions make beautiful memories that last far longer than most Christmas gifts. Your favorite holiday recollection probably includes friends and family sharing in a simple activity like watching Christmas movies or baking cookies. These rituals are meaningful and magical, and they don’t have to be expensive. Here are a few holiday traditions that promise great fun and won’t break the bank.

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