This post originally appeared on All You.
The holiday season is here, and along with it comes the usual round of parties, closetful of gifts and mountain of decorations―all guaranteed to empty your wallet. If you wait until the last minute to shop, you can end up spending more than you'd planned. But don't let the holidays drain your funds. Start the New Year right: with money still left in the bank.
1. Serve Dessert Instead of Dinner
Planning a holiday party can be expensive―more than $120 if you're throwing a big dinner. But who says you have to serve dinner? Switch dinner to dessert and invite everyone over for cookies and eggnog instead.
2. Skip the Wine and Make Punch
Buying a few bottles of good wine for your holiday dinner can cost you nearly as much as the food. Instead, pick up an inexpensive bottle of sparkling wine and mix it with fruit juice and ginger ale for a holiday punch.
3. Shop the Day After Christmas
If you won't see friends or family until after the holidays, wait for the sales.
Saving 50 percent on four gifts means an extra $100 in your pocket (if you typically spend $50 per gift).
4. Cash in Air Miles for Free Gifts
If you have a credit card or bank card that offers you miles for every dollar spent―like the Miles Card from Discover Card or the MBNA World Points card―redeem them for items to give to family and friends. "We use ours for gift certificates to restaurants and the movies," says Leona Porteous, 42, of Farragut, Tenn.
Give just five of your friends one of these "free" $25 certificates and you'll save $125.
5. Send Gifts by E-mail
Don't spend a fortune shipping gifts. Visit www.giftcertificates.com to e-mail a gift certificate.
Savings: $15 in postage if you typically mail three gifts.
6. Be Thoughtful, Inexpensively
Don't feel pressured to buy big gifts for everyone on your list. Put cookies in a decorative tin, or buy some inexpensive ornaments. "An ornament exchange is a nice way to give a gift without anyone having to feel bad," says Marcy Bueti, 30, of Little Elm, Texas.
Savings: $56 if you typically spend $10 per friend.
7. Use Online Coupons to Save
Web sites like wow-coupons.com and keycode.com let you download and print discount coupons from tons of different stores. "We plan our holiday shopping around the best coupons we can find," says Adrianne Sanchez, 39, of Walden, N.Y.
You'll save a total of $50 if you get 20 percent off five $50 gifts.
8. Spread Holiday Cheer by E-mail
Skip just two boxes of holiday cards and postage and you'll save $45.
9. Visit Consignment Shops
Dressing for the office holiday party could end up being expensive if it's a formal affair. Before you head out to the mall for something new, try visiting your local consignment or resale shop. You might just find the perfect outfit―at a discount of 60 percent or 70 percent! Log on to consignmentshops.com to find one near you.
10. Shop Early for Sales
Get up early In the weeks before Christmas, many stores hold sales between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., offering some of the best deals of the year. You have to get there early and wait in line. "I always bring my son and a friend along so we can hit all the sales," says Leona.
Savings: $40 if you get 20 percent off two $100 gifts.