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Question:


Do you have any tips for saving money over the holidays?
-CaliGina


Answer:


If I were cynical – wait, I am – I would suggest starting a fight with your family and/or friends to limit the amount you have to spend on presents. If that idea doesn’t appeal, then you can employ some of the same saving tips that work all year long. If you’re heading out of town, book your tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars through a travel consolidation website like Kayak.com. You’ll probably have to pay more than at other times of the year, but you’re likely to come out ahead of where you would be by going to a travel agent or booking directly with service providers. You might also consider flying on Christmas Day if you’re strapped for cash and don’t mind missing a portion of the holiday itself. Few travelers are willing to do that, so tickets tend to be cheap.
 
As for gifts, online shopping works here, as well. To save more, you could consider giving gift cards as presents in the knowledge that the recipients stand a good chance of getting better deals when they redeem them after the holidays. A more personal variation on that theme is to select specific gifts but buy them in January, presenting cards to the recipients in the meantime detailing what you’re planning to give them. Another way to save on gifts is to go the Secret Santa route, with each adult member of your family or group of friends assigned to buy something for one other adult member, while being more lavish with kids, or else agree within the gift-giving group to keep spending under some modest amount per present.
 
Other ideas include scouring your closets and cupboards for holiday-related items left over from last year (but probably not food, except for fruitcake, which lasts forever); making decorations instead of buying them; making dinner a potluck affair, with guests bringing dishes, and watching classic holiday films on TV instead of paying a fortune to see the latest releases, which are bound to be warmed-over updates of the classic anyway, at a theater. This will probably sound trite and ruin my credibility as a cynic, but it’s true, especially during the holidays: It’s the thought that counts.
-Conrad de Aenlle



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