8 ways to optimize your family budget for the holidays

According to Gallup, the average American family planned to spend approximately $830 on gifts, decorations and other expenses during the holidays last year. Estimated spending amongst families with children was even higher — more than $1,000 per family. Unfortunately, most families went over their budget.

What can your family do this year to keep spending from getting out of control? Use these eight tips to optimize your family budget for the holidays.

1. Make a list and stick to it. It’s easy to get caught up in impulse spending around the holidays. Create a plan of what you need and stick to it. Make sure it includes everything from food and entertainment, to decorations, travel and gifts. Also, if possible, set aside a small amount of money for unexpected expenses that arise.

2. Compare prices. When you’re building your holiday list and budget, do your homework. You can use the internet to compare prices of, for instance, a new video game system for your children on multiple ecommerce websites, like Amazon.com or Target.com.

3. Use your credit card wisely. Use your credit card for purchases, but make sure you pay down your balance when it’s due. When you set up your budget, plan out how much you can put on your credit card so you can afford to pay it off completely at the end of the month.

4. Cash in your rewards. Speaking of credit cards, the holidays are a great time to cash in your rewards. From cash back to points you can put towards flying to visit family, credit card reward plans can be beneficial to your holiday budget.
Bonus tip! Take advantage of bonus points promotions. Pay attention to when your card provider is offering double or triple points promotions as well. Save items you intend to purchase in your online shopping cart, and buy them when you know you’ll get bonus rewards points.

5. Look for free shipping. During the holidays, many companies offer free shipping. When you shop online, check to see if the retailer you’re shopping with offers this as an option. If not, you may be able search the internet to find free shipping codes.

6. Buy in bulk. While you may not be able to buy presents in bulk, you can buy just about everything else you need to make the holidays special this way. Buy food, wrapping paper and more in bulk online, or at a club store if you have a membership, to ease the cost of the holidays.

7. Sign up for retailer emails. Most retailers send out emails to let you know when they are offering specials such as discounts on merchandise or free shipping. Sign up to get emails delivered to your inbox from your favorite retailers and get notified immediately when they are running a promotion. a. Bonus tip! Clip coupons. Another way to find out about promotions from your favorite retailers is to pick up a local newspaper and flip through the adverstisements. Clip coupons and bring them in to the store for additional savings.

8. Make your own gifts and decorations. Websites like Pinterest have thousands of ideas, and even tutorials, for how to make gifts as well as holiday décor. A homemade gift can feel heartfelt, plus making your own décor brings a unique touch to your home.

With a little planning, you can have a great holiday, get something for everyone on your list and still have money left over for next year.