It seems like the holidays creep up on us earlier and earlier each year. Then there’s always the unavoidable purchase that cuts into your holiday budget; new tires for the car, an unexpected trip home, braces, etc. Here are a few tips to keep your holiday spending in check without leaving your bank account in the negative.


1. Do It Yourself Christmas Club Account

1) At the beginning of the year, set aside x amount of dollars each month. Put this money into a separate bank account or pull out cash and put it in an envelope. Another idea is to put the money on gift cards each month and use these to do your holiday shopping. Doing this will help you avoid putting money on a credit card, that you’ll end up paying interest on until it’s paid off.

2.Limit Gifts

2) Limit your list of who you’re buying for. Most family members will understand if you can only afford to buy for your spouse and children. If not, suggest that you draw names and set a reasonable limit on how much to spend. Or if you’re heading home for the holidays opt for a dinner out together, in lieu of exchanging gifts.

3. Keep The Kids Gifts Simple

3) Keep it simple for the kids. Try the 4 gift approach: 1 thing they want, 1 thing they need, 1 thing they’ll read and 1 thing they’ll wear. Another idea is to make homemade gift coupons for the kids to redeem to a movie, an afternoon of bowling, snow tubing, a trip to the zoo, ice skating or local attraction when the weather is nice. You’ll be spending time together as a family and making memories long after the toys have lost their parts.

4. The Trusty Military Discount

4) Always ask for a military discount when shopping. Many retailers offer them on certain days.

5. Coupon Codes For Everything

5) Look for coupon codes, if you’re shopping online. You can save up to 10% or more off your purchases and often get free shipping. If you have USAA you can get a few shopping discount through them too.

6. Free Christmas Trees

6) See if your military installation offers free Christmas trees for service members, if you’re wanting a fresh cut tree. Check out Trees For Troops.

7. Free Pictures With Santa

7) Mall photo packages with Santa and the kids can be pricy. Check and see if Santa will be at your military installation. Many housing offices on post, Exchange locations ,and holiday parties hosted by your spouse’s unit have Santa on hand for pictures and planned activities for the kids. Bring your camera and save yourself a trip to the mall.

8. Save On The Christmas Card Postage

8) Limit your Christmas card list or send out a virtual one and save on postage too. Everyone loves a dancing elf video.

9. Word of Mouth

9) Talk with friends or neighbors about deals they have found on great gifts. Check out pre-Black Friday sales as well as Cyber Monday deals and right before Christmas sales.

10. The Art of Price Matching

10) Don’t forget that many large retailers will price match. Grab a current ad and take it with you to the register. It will save you time and gas driving across town for the same item. Just be sure to check the store’s policy beforehand. The PX price matches as well.

11. Personalized and Custom Gifts

11) Give homemade gifts instead. Knit a scarf, make ornaments for Grandparents or make cookies for the neighbors and teachers. Check Pinterest and other websites for tons of holiday inspiration.

What are some of your tips for staying on budget while holiday shopping?

DSC_0022Nikki is an Army wife currently living in Fort Drum, New York and is originally from central North Carolina. She is married to her husband of 11 years, mother of two boys, ages 6 & 8 and the newest addition to their family is a rescued Weimaraner named, Hunter. She enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, long walks on the beach and addicted to the soft drink, Cheerwine. 



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Krystel is the mom of two and an Army Wife. In addition to Army Wife 101 she is the Co-Founder of a digital media agency that connects brands with the military market. She has appeared on MSNBC ,FOX LA and formerly was a weekly contributor to HLN's "Raising America". She has written for various outlets including Sheknows and Lifetime and is a big fan of cupcakes and french fries.

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