Believe it or not, the holiday season is about 12 weeks away. While that may seem like a distant dream, it’s closer than you think. Thanksgiving can usher in an expensive time of year—meaning you need to start making financial preparations now.
If you don’t know where to begin, here are 11 ways to save for the holidays in 12 weeks.
1. Make your list now.
Take the time to write out everyone you need to purchase for, and be ruthless. Do you really need to buy something for your second aunt twice removed? This may be the year to set a precedent by cutting your “must gift” list.
2. Set your budget.
Once you’ve made your shopping list, calculate your budget. Knowing how much you’re projected to spend—as early as twelve weeks before Christmas—will get you in the mindset of saving now.
3. Save money each week.
Regardless of how large your holiday budget is, it’s always a good idea to begin saving early (as in now). Start putting money aside weekly; over the course of 12 weeks even small amounts can add up quickly.
4. Use online banking to help you budget.
If you have an online banking account, use it to your advantage. Tools such as direct deposit can make saving easy and painless. If you aren’t already using an online budgeting program (such as Mint), now may be a good time to get started!
5. Pay with cash.
If you’re in save-mode, ditch the plastic and pay with cash. This not only helps you set a very strict spending limit, but allows you to tangibly see how much you spend, helping to eliminate mindless splurges.
6. Sell things online.
If you have old textbooks, exercise equipment, furniture, movies, or items of value in your home that you no longer need, sell them online. You can de-clutter your home and boost your holiday shopping budget in one step.
7. Give up luxury items.
A large list and even larger holiday budget can be daunting. If you have a lot of money to save before holiday shopping begins, it’s time to trim the fat. Cut any luxury items, and be realistic about what needs to go. Eliminating your daily Starbucks fix, expensive exercise class, or weekly manicures can lead to substantial savings in a small amount of time.
8. Pick up a side-gig.
A great way to boost your holiday budget is to make a little extra money. There are lots of creative side-hustles out there, even if you can’t commit to a regular part-time position.
9. Shop on Black Friday.
If you have some pricey items on your list, it may be hard to afford each one. While guaranteed to be chaotic, shopping on Black Friday can help you snag expensive items for less. Just be sure not to overspend—and don’t walk out of the store with more than you planned on.
10. Use apps to help you save.
One of your greatest tools for saving money is your smartphone. Whether it’s a coupon-finder app or one that helps you find the lowest price on any item, using your smartphone will help you save.
11. Gift your talents.
If you simply can’t afford to buy everyone a gift this year, it’s time to get creative. Are you an incredible baker? Sewer? Can you donate a few hours of your superior organizational skills to help a friend or family member sort through a closet? Between Pinterest and all the incredible craft and food blogs on the internet, it’s easier than ever to find inexpensive gift ideas.
The holidays will be here sooner than you know and it’s time to start saving. By making a plan and optimizing your time, talents, and resources, you will be able to pay for the holidays (even if you’re on a strict budget).
So make your list, and start saving.
This post originally appeared on Gogirlfinance.com.