10 Sneaky Ways to Save Money During the Holidays

‘Tis the season of gift-giving, but here are 10 ways you can actually save some cash – without missing out on any of the fun.

Bring the Party to You

Staying in to save money doesn't have to mean holing up in front of the TV with leftovers. Instead of skipping the holiday parties, just bring the fun (and grub) to you by hosting a potluck game night. Have everyone bring a dish or drink and set out the Pictionary or Scrabble. Let the games begin!

Give the Gift of…You

Instead of scouring the (sale) rack for something your sister won't hate, give friends and family members a coupon good for your time or skills. Maybe your sister and her husband get free babysitting, and your mother-in-law gets lunch (which she'll probably relish a lot more than another scarf). If you're an accountant, offer to do your parent's taxes for free this year. You get the idea….

Time Yourself

Newsflash: The longer you linger in a store, the more moola you'll probably spend. To avoid impulse purchases, set a time limit before you hit up the mall to hunt for gifts. Then keep an eye on your watch while you browse.

Score Free Shipping

Instead of waiting in one line to buy a gift, another to have it wrapped and yet another to send it, streamline the gift-giving process by shopping for all your out-of-town relatives online. Most retailers will wrap and ship your presents for you, and they often offer free shipping during the holidays (find a list at FreeShipping.org).

Never Pay Retail

Before you start your holiday shopping, check RetailMeNot.com or MyBargainBuddy.com to find promotions and deals for a wide variety of retailers, ranging from Best Buy and Pottery Barn to Gap. Found the perfect gift but it's a little out of your price range? Register it at ShoppingNotes.com, and they'll email you when it goes on sale.

Cut Back on Dry Cleaning

Thanks to all the seasonal festivities, you'll probably be getting lots of use out of your special occasion (read: dry-clean-only) attire. But don't send your party duds to the dry cleaner after only one or two wears (unless you had a run in with some eggnog)—regular dry cleaning will wear down your clothes and your bank account. Do as the French do, and hang your party frocks by a window to air them out. Invest in a steamer (or heat up the ol' iron) to smooth out any wrinkles and you'll be good to go for the next shindig.

Get Fit for Free

With all the eating, drinking and being merry, it's easy to pack on the pounds. But you don't have to spend a ton to undo the damage. Instead of paying for a gym membership, work out at home for free. If you're planning to walk (or run) off the Christmas chub, bundle up and head outside (the scenery's a lot better). Need a little coaching? Download the free RunKeeper app to keep track of your mileage and calories burned. Prefer to take classes? Your Netflix subscription gives you access to tons of workout videos that you can stream through your TV or computer, or go to ExerciseTV.tv for more free videos.

Scan a Deal
Too busy (or lazy) to comparison shop? Download the ShopSavvy or RedLaser app, and you can scan an item's bar code to see what it costs at other stores and online. If you find a lower price, just ask the manager at your current locale to match it.

Make Your Money Count – Twice

If you're planning on doing most of your shopping online, try using MyPoints.com. It offers reward points per transaction at many retailers. Rack up the points, then redeem them for gift cards for a ton of stores – including Barnes & Noble, Target, The Home Depot and more.

Going for Gift Cards? Buy Them at a Discount

If you plan on giving gift cards this year, check out PlasticJungle.com and ABCGiftcards.com. Both sites offer gift cards that others didn't want – at a discounted price. You can save up to 35 percent.

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