9 Ways to Save Your Holiday Money

Want to cool down your credit card? Set your mind to saving instead of spending this holiday season.

Money Sense
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The holidays can zap even the thriftiest wallet. Check out these clever ways to stay out of the red.

1) Don't go nuts. Many families agree to give gifts just to the kids. If that seems too stringent, plan a gift exchange (some call it a Secret Santa) or agree on a spending limit (“Let's keep it to $25 per gift, ya'll!”).

Holidays in Northern Virginia

If shopping for new homes in Northern Virginia is on your holiday to-do list, check out the goings-on in the area. Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon really know how to liven up the season.

2) Resist impulse buying for yourself. Instead of doing lots of haphazard spending, figure out what your one splurge is going to be—and stick to it.

3) Power to the potluck. Hosting a dinner? Make it a potluck. Choose an epicurean theme like Country Christmas or Mexican Fiesta. Potlucks are fun because everyone has a chance to make something new.

4) Devise a holiday budget. This year, don't start with a gift list. Instead, determine what you'd ideally like to spend, and work within that framework.

5) Coupons are cool. If money is tight, make creative coupons for friends and family. Two ideas: One Night of Babysitting or a Gourmet Dinner for Two. Make your coupon special by using quality paper (and follow through with your special offer!).

6) Be the baker. Whip up a batch of homemade cupcakes, and gift them to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Oriental Trading has sweet cupcake boxes by the dozen.

7) Go discount. We're not talking the 99-cent store, but do visit discount sites like Bluefly, and Gilt. You'll definitely get more for your money.

8) Eco-wrap your gifts. Get your green on and use magazines or newspaper for wrapping and bows.

9) Bring the outdoors in. Decorate with nature's little gifts—strung cranberries, pinecones, branches, and acorns. If you really want to use outdoor lights, just do something small or go solar to save on electricity. One small tree, lit creatively, can be just as striking as a tricked-out house.

Ryan Homes Tip: Take a step back from the shopping mall and spend time with family, friends, and neighbors. Wine, cheese, and conversation by the fireplace is the best way to celebrate.