May your holidays be merry and bright—but without breaking the bank!
 
Here are some helpful tips to save money this holiday season.
 

Plan

You know the saying, “When you fail to plan, plan to fail.” Well, the same applies to your pocketbook during the holiday season. Spend some time thinking about where your money should go before you spend it.
 
Will you be buying gifts, traveling, baking or hosting parties? Make a pie chart of the various expenses you’ll have and the percentage of funds you will allocate to each.
 

Budget

After you’ve made your financial plan, arrive at a realistic budget to which you can stick. Don’t think about all the odds and ends you’ll need to pull together just yet. First, focus on what you can spend and feel good about after the holidays. Then make your wishlist fit within your budget, not the other way around!
 

Shop with a List

Browsing is one of the easiest ways to get off budget. When you arrive at the store, whether it be for groceries or gifts, have a prepared list of what you need and what you plan to spend. Although tempting, stick to your list and keep your eyes off all the goodies in the check-out line!
 

Start Early

The retail industry loves procrastinators. They’re typically stretched for time and make quicker decisions. When you’re in this boat, you’ll likely spend more than you would have planned. Start early so you’ve got a clear mind and your eye out for deals that retailers run throughout the holiday season.
 

Use the Secret Santa Method

If you have a large family or friend group, gifts can pile up quickly. Recommend a Secret Santa gift exchange in which each person randomly draws another person’s name. This way, everyone experiences the joy of opening a gift and each person only has to buy one.
 

Track Your Spending

You likely won’t be buying all your gifts from one single store or website. Be sure to write down how much you spend at each retailer because when you estimate, you’re likely to get off budget.
 

Bundle Shipping on Online Orders

Don’t buy your gifts one-off. Think about your entire list when you’re purchasing from an online retailer. Remember, free shipping is common when you hit a certain dollar amount during the holidays. You can even ask a friend if she plans on buying gifts from the same retailer. That way, you both can take advantage of free shipping and she can reimburse you later.
 

Pay in Cash at Stores

Carrying cash is a great way to stay on budget. If you plan to spend $100 at a particular store, hit up an ATM beforehand and you’re guaranteed to not go over budget. (Remember, when you bank with Equity Bank, we block ALL ATM fees!)
 

Cut Down on Your List

This one is the hardest, but if you have a large gift list or tight budget, it can relieve a lot of stress. Rather than giving a gift because you always do, give gifts to the people with whom you have the most meaningful relationships. For those for don’t make the gift list, write them a sincere handwritten note to show them that you still care.
 
Remember, the holidays are the season of giving—but the true giving comes in your thoughtfulness and the time you spend with the people you care about. Giving gifts is a special tradition, but people are what the holidays are really all about!