Save money this holiday season

Millions of Americans are probably getting pretty close to wrapping up their holiday shopping, but there's more to be done when it comes to saving money. Those who want to cut their costs this holiday season will still have time to do so as long as they can get a little smarter with how they approach their shopping efforts in these final two weeks.

The first thing that consumers should do if they want to save some money this holiday season is to set a budget. If they know how much they can spend without getting themselves into financial trouble in the first place, that should go a long way toward making sure they can put together a reasonable list of gifts to buy that will both cover everyone for whom they need to make such a purchase and keep their own personal finances intact. Often, there will be plenty of smartphone apps that help them in their pursuit of these financial goals.

Why is this an issue?
The problem for many Americans is that even if they set up a budget and write a list of what they want to buy, it's very easy to be overwhelmed once they actually get to a store, or even shop online. There are so many things that are priced to move and advertised rather attractively throughout a store or site. However, the need to avoid those is obvious to anyone trying to stick to a budget, and must be done in order to avoid racking up potentially hundreds of dollars more in extra purchases that weren't accounted for in the original planning.

One great way to do this is to do some research beforehand and determine exactly what will be needed, and what it should cost, in addition to the items on the list. For instance, parents buying their children battery-operated toys should try to remember they'll need to build the cost of those batteries into the budget as well. But in addition to that, price-matching efforts online could end up saving them a significant amount of money.

Take advantage of the deals available
Beyond all that, though, consumers looking to save a little money might want to think about seeking the best possible deals as well, even beyond the cost of their items. For instance, some retailers may take 20 percent off purchases over $50 on specific days, or provide free express shipping on certain orders as well. The ability to identify those deals could likewise go a long way toward helping to save a lot of money in the next few weeks.

Those who are able to keep their budgets from ballooning and actually save some money might then be in a better overall position financially. The money they save might, instead, be better put toward things like building an emergency savings account or paying down debt, all of which will have a positive effect going forward.

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