For many of us, autumn is filled with outdoor activities, spending time with extended family, and the start of an expensive holiday season. Before you hit the mall on Black Friday or make your online purchases on Cyber Monday, consider these tips for getting the most out of your holidays while minimizing your expenses.

1) Setting a budget – Before the holidays begin, consider creating a list of everyone for whom you would like to buy a gift and then assign a dollar amount as a target for each person. Make sure that the total value of all of those gifts is within your means. If not, you may need to reduce your spending or reduce the number of people on your list.

When you’re buying gifts, don’t spend based on the recipient’s budget. You may have friends or family members who have higher incomes and/or who don’t have children. Your spending should be based on your abilities not of those around you.

2) Use technology – If you’re shopping online, do a quick coupon code search or check a store’s Facebook or Twitter pages for promotions. There are also apps that allow you to scan barcodes to see if other stores nearby have the same item for less.

3) Think about different types of gifts – Gift cards may seem impersonal, but they allow for the receiver to get exactly what s/he wants and it allows you keep to your budget. Buying a gift card means that you won’t have to worry about taxes or spending a few extra dollars here and there, because that will add up.

If you prefer something more personal, you can spend time with your relatives rather than giving expensive gifts. Most parents and grandparents get more enjoyment out of time with their family then they do accumulating more stuff.

An idea for your office, family, or a group of friends is to start a Secret Santa tradition. Everyone draws the name of someone else in the group and buys a gift for that person. Utilizing a predetermined maximum price for the gift allows gifting to be fun and affordable for everyone.

4) Parties and dining out – Of course, the holidays aren’t complete without parties. You may host a party or holiday dinner or attend one. Either way, make sure to keep an eye on your budget.

Friends normally ask if they can bring anything to your party so don’t be shy. Ask friends to bring their favorite dessert or ask if they can bring an appetizer or drinks. Your friends will be happy to help and it can save you time shopping, time preparing, and money.

If you’re one to bring a gift or food to a friend’s holiday party, you may want to limit the amount of parties you attend or reduce the value of your gifts to stay within your budget.

Because the holidays often involve travel, I have found that people usually eat out more in November and December than they do in other months. Make sure to plan your meals in advance of heading to the mall or visiting your family. If you can’t eat at home before or after your travel, consider taking some food with you. At the very least, create a plan and budget for the restaurant of your choosing. Holiday travel is stressful and people tend to eat and spend more when they’re stressed.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and not something that causes significant stress. They definitely shouldn’t cause you to panic when you see your credit card bill in January. By planning ahead, you’re more likely to get the most out of the holidays.

Author Profile

Woody Derricks, CFP®
Woody Derricks, CFP®
Throughout my nearly 20 years as a Financial Advisor, I have seen some of the best and worst markets in our history. That experience allows me to approach my clients with the knowledge of how the markets fit into their greater financial picture. At Partnership Wealth Management we help everyday people who have accumulated wealth make sense of what they have and work with them to maximize their financial opportunities in a relaxed, comfortable, and professional environment. While we help people from all walks of life, many of our clients are same-sex couples searching for a knowledgeable, LGBT-friendly financial advisor to help them with their unique financial planning needs. I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and have the Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor(sm) designation. As a Registered Investment Advisor, we are not tied to any company’s investment products allowing us to provide unbiased advice by offering a wide array of investments and other products to our clients. Since 2001, I have been writing articles on financial planning for several regional newspapers and have been a guest speaker on LGBT financial issues for various local and national organizations. Additionally, I have conducted financial planning workshops for large corporations and government agencies. Non-Profit Work I believe that it is important to give back to the community and currently serve as the treasurer for FreeState Justice and as a co-founder/president of Paws for a Cause. I’m a current member of several LBGT, environmental, and local community groups. Personal My wife, Heidi and I enjoy camping, hiking, and traveling with our daughter, Elise, and our dogs, Fenway & Roxy. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.