Thanksgiving and Black Friday are almost here, so it’s time to start thinking about ways to make it through the holidays without overspending.  Here are six things I do to maintain my budget during the most wonderful (and expensive) time of the year:

Make a Reasonable Budget
I’ve been making a Christmas shopping budget each year since I was ten.  It started with a list of family members I wanted to buy gifts for, but has now expanded to include all of the events that surround the holidays.  Presents for gift exchanges, hostess gifts, dinners with friends, holiday light tours and the list goes on.  Determine a realistic amount for your holiday spending and begin to make a budget.

Prioritize Your Money and Time
Once you have a number in mind, think about the people who you would like to buy gifts for and the events you would like to attend.  Sometimes saying “no” to an invitation or restraining yourself from spending on the perfect (but way out of your budget) gift can feel painful, but your sanity and finances will thank you for prioritizing what’s important to you.  After you have settled on whom you will buy for and the social events you will go to, set a dollar amount to spend for each gift and party.

Pay with Cash
While I don’t normally use the “envelope system,” I find it a really helpful tool during the holidays.  With your budget as a guide, take out the amount of cash you’ll need for gifts and use that predetermined amount instead of a credit card.  Using an envelope of cash labeled “mom,” for instance, makes me more focused on buying her gift and helps me avoid impulse buys. [click to continue…]


It can be hard to get excited about decorating for the holidays when you live alone. I live in a studio apartment, so I don’t technically have a hall, much less multiple halls, to deck.  While I love the idea of putting up a big tree and lots of lights, I decided to find some faster and less expensive ways to bring holiday fun to my loft.

The Christmas Tree
My lovely Christmas tree (see above) was a gift from my mom when I moved into my apartment. It stays decorated while it’s in storage and all I had to do was move it and plug it in for some instant Christmas cheer.  It will be easy to move back into storage when the holidays are over (and there won’t be any pesky pine needles to deal with).

Ornaments on Tiered Trays
I’ve seen lots of great ways to display ornaments in glass containers this year.  From mason jars to vases and trifle dishes, I’ve been envious of all the fun dishware that can be used to creatively hold shiny ball ornaments.  I found some silver shatterproof ornaments at my parents’ house, but I then realized that I don’t own any large glass dishes.  Before committing to buying something new, I looked around my apartment and decided to use my tiered tray to show off the ornaments.  I think it looks pretty festive for being free.

Santa Squirrel
I started collecting squirrel ornaments in college in honor of my sorority mascot.  They’ll look great in a big tree one day, but they’re currently displayed in different areas of my apartment.   I found a big squirrel for 75% off at World Market last weekend.  It was on sale because it only had one ear, but with a $1 Santa hat from the Dollar Tree I now have fun new Christmas decoration.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my apartment and it took just a few dollars and minutes to decorate.  I’ve also been sure to keep my place “company ready” just in case someone wants to stop by for some eggnog or cider.  No dirty dishes in the sink, the bed’s always made, and no dust on the baseboards (mom would be particularly proud about this one) will be here to welcome my holiday guests.  They’ll just find lots of festive squirrels.

How did you decorate for the holidays this year?

“I am sharing my holiday home decor and cleaning tips for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls and Great Cleaners.”

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