1. Shop online, especially if you are buying electronics. Online retailers have less overhead, more rebate promotions, and they will lower their prices deliberately to compete with brick-and-mortar retailers.
2. Pay Cash for your gifts. I'm talking about paying with cold, hard cash. Studies have shown a correlation with increased spending when using plastic, even if it's your debit card. Remember, negotiating price is easier when you pay with cash.
3. Stay away from shopping malls. I have no clue why so many people are drawn to the atmosphere of a busy, crowded shopping mall. All of the most expensive retailers are in the mall, because they are the only ones that can afford the lease agreement in shopping malls. The frenzy of watching everyone else spend might influence you to spend over your budget. There's a reason why shopping malls constantly pump music in your ear. They know that it motivates you to get into the holiday spending spirit!
4. Do your research. If you prefer seeing the gifts before you purchase them, then go online first and do pricing research to make sure that you are getting the best deal. iTunes has an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows you to scan a 2D or 1D bar code and receive tons of pricing research from other retailers.
5. Avoid impulse buys. Sometimes we see something that looks, smells, and feels like a great deal, but in reality it's not that great of a deal. We get caught up in the moment of shopping, so we go ahead and purchase something without much thought. To avoid this, if you see something that you weren't planning on buying, put it down and sleep on it. If you still want to buy it the next day, then go back to the store and buy it. This will avoid buying lame gifts that seemed make much more sense when you bought them.
6. eBay is still a good resource for hard-to-find gifts. If you are looking for a collector's item or antique as a gift, eBay is still the leader and best place to find a bargain on these items. Clothes are also great items to buy on eBay. I would avoid buying everyday electronics on eBay. It's too risky, because many of them are not new, or they are imposters made to look like the actual product.
7. Write down everyone you want to buy a gift for and put a dollar amount next to each of their names. For instance, mom gets a $50 gift, sister gets a $30 gift, and so on. It sounds like you are taking away the "spirit" of giving by placing a set dollar amount on gifts for each person, but in reality it helps you budget your gift giving. And remember that it's not about the gifts, it's about the thought and time you put into thinking about someone.
8. Do your December budget without factoring in Christmas bonuses. The holidays require a lot of extra cash to have on hand. Save your Christmas bonus for gifts, holiday food, and having fun. It's the holidays, relax and have fun with your family! If you already budget out your bills with your normal income and save the bonus for Christmas expenses, then this will save you from using credit cards on the holidays.
9. Be a creative gift giver. Many of you have a ton of talent when it comes to making crafts. Being creative and making a gift for someone can turn out to be a much better gift than receiving another Gap sweater. When faced with giving a gift to your parents who seem to have everything, go with something sentimental that reminds them of you or family memories. They'll eat it up with a spoon.
10. Spend time spending time with loved ones. So many people go to the movies and spend $8 on a ticket and $20 on food and candy. All this does is get you fatter on the holidays and avoid having to talk to your family. Play a board game, go bowling, or go to the park during the holidays. Try doing something that facilitates more time to catch up on what's going on in your lives.
11. Make the most of your leftovers. Another thing people do is go out to eat more on the holidays. Again, i'm not a scrooge, so live it up on the holidays, but don't go overboard. You'll spend more money on groceries over the holidays, so utilize and be creative with the yummy leftovers in your fridge.
12. Host a pot-luck New Year's Eve party. You'll spend much less money having a party at someone's house rather than going out somewhere, plus it's safer than going out. Ask your 8 - 10 closest couple friends over and assign them with a different food category to bring over. Some music, good laughs, and games will bring you through to the new year without killing your wallet.
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