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Holidays on a Budget

Plannin' a holiday on a budget this year? If you're a discount diva that seeks frugal finds just as much as we do, then you won't have a thing to worry about with this year's budget.
GL's got your top 10 money-savin' tips to keep your holiday shopping list manageable and your wallet happy.
 
1. Make a Budget
This isn’t just valuable when you’re buying gifts—it’s a great habit to have for the rest of your life! Calculate how much money you make each week on average and decide how you're going to spend each dollar. Put the most important priorities at the top of the list, like bills and necessary food or transportation expenses and then add less important expenses toward the bottom, like shopping and entertainment.
Decide what expenses you can realistically cut out and calculate how much money you have left over. That will be the amount you save each week to go toward holiday spending.Things to consider when budgeting: lunch money, bus fare or gas (if you drive), entertainment (movies, iTunes purchases, etc.), dinner with friends, shopping, toiletries, cell phone bill, gym membership and club dues.
2. Pack a Lunch
 Packing your own lunch to bring to school can save you a lot of unexpected costs. The price to buy all of the ingredients from the grocery store to make a sandwich might seem like a lot compared to your $5 sub from the school cafeteria, but considering the store-bought goods will last ya a whole lot longer makes it all worth it! Plus, you'll probably be eating healthier by packing homemade lunches rather than Friday's "Mystery Meat" at school.
3. Shop Sales
Lots of big-name stores have holiday sales. You might luck out with a fabulous find on anything from electronics for dad, sweaters for mom and boxed fragrance or makeup sets for your BFF! Check out the ads online or in the newspaper for major department stores or Target, Wal-Mart and Khol's for a head's up on what to expect.
 
4. Clip Coupons
Coupon clipping might seem like it's more up your grandma's alley, but they can really save you tons! Check your newspapers every week to see what deals are coming up or do a simple online search for a certain store. There are tons of great sites out there that find the coupons for ya for free, like retailmenot.com and all you have to do is hit print! Be sure to check the expiration date.
5. Girls' Night In
If you're used to going out with your girls most Friday or Saturday nights, you probs drop a lot of dollas going to movie theaters or shopping. Consider hosting a night in for all your BFF's. Rent a movie from the library or buy one on TV for cheap. You’ll have just as good a time and you might even start your own tradition (psst! Make it a potluck and tell your pals to bring a cool snack!). 

 6. Secret Santa
If you've got more than one BFF and feel overwhelmed by all the prezzies you have to buy for your posse, then def consider doing a "Secret Santa" gift exchange with your girls. What you do is put each person's name in a hat and have everyone choose a name—making sure no one gets their own! Agree on a price range or go all-out DIY so that everyone’s gift is similar. It's more fun to keep whose name you have a secret and have to guess whose got you!
 
7. Sweater Swap
Part of the fun surrounding the holidays is finding cute outfits to wear to each event! Host a "sweater swap" and invite all of your BFF's to come and ask that they bring their most seasonally-inspired articles of clothing. Help each girl find a great outfit by mixing and matching. With all those minds working together, you'll be the best-looking group at your winter fling!
8. DIY
Sometimes the best prezzies are the ones that you've created all on your own. There are many great do-it-yourself holiday gift ideas that would please anyone on your list. How about making a mixed CD of your BF's fave songs or framing a photo of the fam for your mom? Photo collages are great gifts for friends, and teachers always enjoy homemade treats and goodies. The possibilities are as endless!
 
9. Plan for the Unplanned
No matter how well you budget, there will always be unexpected costs that come up each week from emergencies or forgotten expenses. Some loss of funds could include necessary school supplies or athletic equipment, canceled babysitting gigs, flat tires or even lost money. As long as you prepare for the idea that you will be spending a li’l more than what you've budgeted, you should be able to handle it better and hopefully make up for it quickly.
10. Spend Realistically
Be real about how you're using your moolah. Buying your mom a $100 sweater is a nice gesture and she'd definitely appreciate it but let's face it—you most likely can't afford it. Dining out is another thing to think about when you're trying to spend realistically. Opt for the smaller lunch portion and stick to restaurants that are within your budget, or better yet throw a big bring-your-own dinner party with pals.

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by Alyssa Bailey | 2/1/2016
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