It's hard to not get wrapped up in the spirit of generosity that comes along with the holiday season. In fact, people spend an average of $730 on gifts, food and other purchases during the Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza season. However, depending on your budget, that may leave you broke by the new year. If you don't want to receive the gift of credit card debt, follow these so-simple steps for being a clever cheapskate and saving lots of cash this holiday season.
Hit Up Free Turkeys
Many grocery stores give away free turkeys to regular patrons. For example, the chain ShopRite asks you to use your Price Plus club card, and when you spend the required amount (differs by store, but usually between $100-400), you get a free turkey, ham, lasagna or tofurkey (if that's your thing). Plenty of other chains have similar deals, so be sure to ask if your store has any holiday promotions.
Wine and Dine Wisely
Hosting doesn't have to break your budget. Keep things festive and frugal by making a single cocktail instead of stocking a full bar. You can buy inexpensive (but delicious) sparkling wine for a punch and no one will no the difference. Serve appetizers like deviled eggs, which are economical and filling. And don't worry about pricey desserts -- freshly baked sugar cookies or ice cream hit the spot and are much less expensive that pies or cakes.
Book Flights 8 Weeks in Advance
According to the Today show financial editor Jean Chatzky, booking flights in advance can save about 19 percent! Even if you are cutting it close, try buying a ticket on Sunday. According to new reports from the Airline Reporting Corporation, this is the best day for you to get deals.
Skip Black Friday
According to a recent analysis by Savings.com, the best sales actually occur prior to Black Friday. Over the past five years, the sales typically peak 6-7 days before Thanksgiving. So you can skip the lines and chaos and scope out deals throughout the months of November and December.
Get Deals on Décor
To get a beautifully decorated home on a budget, try checking out sites like save-on-crafts.com to save money on hundreds of décor items. When purchasing a tree, try going during the week, when the pace is slower and you can haggle a bit. Be sure to save the boughs trimmed of the bottom to create your own wreath, especially if you like to DIY. When it comes to blinging out your home with lights, save a little money by using LED lights. They're more expensive than incandescent lights, but they can cut costs on your electric bill.
Gather Up Your Gift Cards
Did your lovely great-aunt give you a gift card to a store you never step foot in? Trade it in! Sites like Cardpool.com or Giftcardgranny.com allow you to buy and sell gift cards, letting you unload ones you'll never use and pick up others to your (and your family's) favorite stores.
Do Your Retail Research
If there are particular items on your Christmas shopping list, be sure to check pricegrabber.com to compare prices before you make the purchase. The first store (or site) might not be the cheapest. And don't miss any additional deductions by checking retailmenot.com or couponfollow.com to make sure the store you're buying from doesn't have any secret discounts.
And if none of these work with your budget, there's always the gift of kitty litter facials, according to Pelin from "Extreme Cheapskates."
-- Mara Betsch
More on Saving Money:
Quiz: Are You a Cheapskate?
Michelle Duggar's Best Money-Saving Tips
Unexpected Ways to Cut Costs