4 Budget-Friendly Holiday Shopping Tips

If you're someone who has a large social circle of family, friends and loved ones you cherish, this can make the holidays more rewarding and enriching, but it can also make them a lot more expensive. Although the true spirit of the season is about love and togetherness, let's face it: we spend a lot during the holiday season. Like any major expense, it's crucial to prepare well before you have to make your purchase. To make sure all of your finances are in good shape for the holidays, consider the following top four tips to have you ready for Black Friday and beyond.

1. Clip Coupons

Instead of being subject to the sales of your favorite stores (which may or may not work around your schedule), you can ensure great deals every day of the week by clipping coupons. Couponing is a hot new trend among frugal shoppers today, with even entire reality television shows like TLC's Extreme Couponing devoted to the practice. The stores you frequent tend to make this process even easier for you by printing out coupons with your receipts and sending coupons in emails. However, you can also look for additional websites and blogs for some even more extensive resources.

2. Go Shopping Now

Every year during the week before Christmas, shopping malls and stores everywhere are jam packed with last-minute shoppers. When you purchase all of your holiday gifts a week before the event, this can quickly add up. However, if you start shopping early (even just a month before), the expense won't give your bank account as big of a hit. Not to mention, you'll benefit with less stress from shopping in these slower periods and count on everyone having their Christmas gifts on time this year.

3. Make a List, Check it Twice

Take a few tips from Old Saint Nick and make lists before you go shopping this year. Contact friends and relatives now to get a list of some things they've been eyeing for the holidays. Once you have a list for everyone, call around to multiple stores that carry these items and research online to try to find the best prices. Remember to keep using your coupons for an even lower cost!

4. Choose Budget-Friendly Holiday Activities

Having fun during the holidays can be expensive, but it really doesn't have to be. Instead of planning elaborate holiday parties or going out for fancy dinners, you and the family can have fun for free by doing things like picking apples at an orchard and making jars of apple butter for friends and family. You can go for a drive and admire all of the best-decorated homes in the neighborhood, make a snowman or even drink hot cocoa by the fire. Choosing these fun and cost-free activities will help everyone focus on what's really important this season, and you'll save more money for shopping trips in the meantime.

It might seem like a bummer to have to budget for the holiday season, but you'll likely find that doing so allows you to enjoy it even more without getting caught up in the spending craze surrounding this time. What's most important is spending time with friends and family and just enjoying a nice break from your daily to-do list. Even though it's not yet Halloween, I guarantee you will not regret starting early with these four money-saving tips!