6 Last-Minute Holiday Time and Money Savers

Where did all of the money go?  Where did all of the time go?  Help!  Even when you budget and plan, holiday spending has a way of getting out of hand. If you find yourself halfway through your preparations and shopping, but needing to save time and money—we have 6 holiday time and money savers to get your budget and schedule back on track. With these creative solutions, you can deck the halls without dreading the bills—and still have a little time to sip cocoa and listen to Bing Crosby!

1. Go for the E-Card. In the age of digital photography, it’s easier than ever to whip out a wonderful Christmas card on the computer and send it via email or Facebook to friends far and wide. This eliminates all of the cost for photo processing, envelopes, postage and the time needed to assemble and address the paper cards. What’s more, today’s e-cards give you the option to include several family photos in slide-show format along with music and animations—the possibilities are endless! Take a look at www.smilebox.com for ideas.

2. Buy small. When buying gifts for out-of-town friends and family, pay attention to the physical size of the item you choose. If you keep it small, you can take advantage of the U.S. Postal Service’s flat rate shipping boxes, saving big bucks on postage! Visit www.usps.com to find out how to get boxes, pay for and print postage from home, and schedule a free pick-up for your packages.

3. Rustic wrapping. We tend to spend a bundle on beautiful wrapping paper and ribbons that are destroyed in mere seconds. You can have lovely gifts under the tree for less if you go for the rustic look of plain brown butcher paper, tied up with simple raffia or other inexpensive cording. Is all brown too plain for you? Enlist the little ones to help decorate the paper with stamps or tempera paints for a dash of color.

4. Let Mother Nature decorate. Before you spend a lot on decorations, take a look around the yard (and even the roadside) for natural holly, berries and other holiday flora. A few stems snipped off a shrub and arranged in a vase or in the center of your dining room table can make the atmosphere festive for free! If you have small children, ensure that none of your natural décor is poisonous.

5. Take advantage of price comparison websites. If you’re in the hunt for a particular item, check out one of the price comparison sites to find the retailer with the best price. Not only are you confident that you’re getting the best deal when you make the purchase, you’ve saved countless hours in traffic and fighting the mall crowds to visit major retailers in person. These sites are especially helpful with electronics purchases. Try www.pricegrabber.com to get started.

6. Take time to plan your grocery shopping. Spending an hour to create a meal plan and shopping list will save money and time. Every time you return to the store to pick up “just a few items” for dinner, you make an impulse buy or two, as well. Planning carefully can help you get everything you need for family meals and special holiday meals in one weekly trip, without time-draining repeat visits to your grocer.