The holidays are a magical time of year: it's when your money magically goes from your pocket to someone's cash register. How much will you spend? No matter what you plan on spending, there are plenty of ways to save.
Tip 1: Decide and divide
Decide how much you're going to spend - divide that amount among the people you're gifting. Then be like Santa: make a list and check it twice.
Tip 2: take yourself off yours.
The National Retail Federation says Americans will spend $700 each this holiday season - but that includes $130 we're going to spend on ourselves. Scratch yourself - you've already saved 18 percent.
Tip 3: Coupons
Once you've decided what you're buying, check online for coupon codes. It takes seconds and could save a bundle.
Tip 4: Gift Cards
If you have any, use your unused ones from last year, or buy discounted ones from specialty sites and use them: that could save you 10 percent or more.
Final tip: Give something valuable that won't cost you a dime: yourself.
There are any number of ways to do it, from baby-sitting to cooking meals to shopping and doing chores. Just make a gift certificate and you're done.
But to use these tips, you need one more: start early. The more time you have, the easier it is to substitute imagination for money.