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Don’t Blow It!

Holiday budgetBetween all the gift-giving, travel, parties, and big family dinners, overspending during the holidays is a common phenomenon. But for retirees living on a fixed income, blowing your budget can make “the most wonderful time of year” downright stressful. Here are five tips for saving money between now and January.

  1. Make a budget (and stick to it). Lots of friends and relatives to shop for? Before you hit the mall, make a list with an exact dollar amount that you can afford to spend on each person. And because most of us tend to buy a little something for ourselves while shopping for others, factor a gift for yourself into your budget. If the gifts you planned on buying are marked down, great. But resist the urge to buy extra presents just because they’re on sale.

  1. Shop online, but don’t pay too much for shipping. Without question, shopping online saves you time, money and gas (since you can comparison shop to your heart’s content without setting foot outside your door). But beware of steep shipping prices – especially if you procrastinate and get stuck with rush charges. Fortunately, you can avoid paying for shipping altogether by having your purchases mailed to a retailer’s brick-and-mortar store for pickup – or by taking advantage of free shipping promotions. You can also find free shipping codes at sites like FreeShipping.org. And don’t forget about Free Shipping Day on December 18th, when hundreds of merchants will offer free shipping on all purchases with guaranteed delivery by December 24th.
  1. Don’t spoil your grandkids. You might not view buying every single toy that your grandchildren ask for as a waste of money – especially when you see their eyes light up every time they open a gift from you. But keep in mind that many of those items might wind up under a bed or in the back of a closet within a matter of days – and sometimes within a matter of hours. Better to spend your money on a few items (or even just one item) that you know they’ll really use.
  1. Keep an eye on your airfare – even after you buy your ticket. If you’re traveling by plane to see friends or relatives over the holidays, keep this little-known fact in mind: You can get most airlines and online travel agencies to give you a rebate (usually in travel credits or vouchers) if the price of your flight is marked down from what you paid prior to your travel date. You just have to ask for it. Sites like Yapta.com will send you alerts if the price drops on a flight that you’ve booked. The only downside is that some airlines charge significant fees for rebooking your flight. If the fee outweighs your rebate, it’s obviously not worth it.
  1. Don’t wait to pay off your credit card. True, buying all your gifts and other holiday items on sale is a great way to save money. But if you charge everything to a credit card and don’t pay off the balance right away, those savings can easily be erased by the interest and fees that you may have to pay. The Credit Card Payoff Calculator at Credit.com is a great tool for helping you determine the actual costs of carrying a credit card balance.

So take these tips to heart, and don’t let financial stress drain all the joy out of your holidays. And remember: It’s not the money you spend on your family and friends that’s important. It’s the time.

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