For many, the holidays are arguably the most joyous time of the year, but they are also usually also the most expensive.

There is plenty of pressure to give great gifts, attend family gatherings, visit friends, go to the cool holiday spots and have great parties to celebrate Christmas.

The holidays are like a licence to overspend on travel and parties but all that spending is not worth the post-holiday debt and financial woes in the aftermath that will probably spill over in coming months, especially to “Dry January”.

We all know how that goes.

However with enough planning and creativity, there are ways you can cut on unnecessary spending that will ensure you have some holiday cheer instead of holiday stress.

Make a shopping list

If you are trying to save money during the holidays, a shopping list is the first key strategy. There is a conventional piece of wisdom that says, “You should never go shopping on an empty stomach” because if you do, there is a high chance your cart will be full of items you don’t need.

A shopping list will ensure you only make a beeline for the items you need. It will also deter you from picking items – that are usually on sale during this time – that vie for your attention and money.

A shopping list makes the process smoother and potentially saves you a lot of money.

Shop secondhand

There are a lot of stuff that you can get secondhand, like books or handbags that can still be found in mint condition. It’s been a tough year, especially financially, and it’s only right that you find ways to stretch your money.

Take your time to scour through thrift shops where you will find unique pieces that may be rare to find new.

But if you are gearing up to exchange gifts, just make sure that your finds are in good condition. Nobody will be delighted to unwrap a scarf with holes in it.

Give homemade gifts

The pressure to exchange gifts can be high during this time of year. If you have to but don’t have the resources, be creative and tap into your crafty Do it Yourself (DIY) skills. Make something pretty and thoughtful like jewelry, a mat, or a sweater.

But if that is not up your alley then bake a nice cake, pastries or cook a sumptuous meal. People appreciate the effort and time spent into creating thoughtful and meaningful gifts more than picking up something from a supermarket shelf.

If you can’t do any of the above, give the gift of your time. You will be surprised how much someone values just a visit, or the offer to babysit or run an errand for them.

Use loyalty points

Most of the major supermarkets in Kenya have loyalty reward cards that customers can earn points every time they go shopping. If you have been saving up all year long until you have the right amount, then the holidays are the best time to spend them.

If you’ve been meaning to get a new electric kettle to replace the old one, there’s no need to spend money when you can redeem and use your points instead.

Look for cheap travel deals

If you keep catching the travel bug, you simply need to learn how to score travel deals to make your trips less stressful on you and your wallet. The first trick is to be flexible on your travel dates. Visiting holiday locations during the off-peak seasons is often cheaper and comes with a less crowd.

You also don’t have to keep going to vacation hotspots. Go off the unbeaten path once in a while to avoid crowds associated with top tourist’s spots.

Lastly, always book early and follow your favorite hotels, travel companies or airlines on social media to keep up to date with exclusive promotions or deals.

Limit the guest list

It’s this simple; the more people you invite over to your house the more you will spend on food and drinks. And of course there are the unexpected costs for those guests with unique dietary needs, or if they come with children.

Limiting the number of people you invite to your home will first, allow you to spend quality time with your guests, second, significantly lower your food budget and third, everyone will have a good time at the party.

Have a potluck

Instead of hiring a caterer or waking up at the crack of dawn to cook to feed your party guests, have a potluck. It is the easiest option that will save on cost and labour. Plus, you will get a variety of food.

To avoid having the same dish from more than three people, you can assign your guests the type of food to bring over. Ask beforehand what they are comfortable cooking and divide the dishes among your guests to figure out who will come with the appetizers, main dish, deserts and even drinks.

Lower your liquor bill

To eliminate this cost, there are various options. Staying home and relaxing with a nice movie and a hot cocoa or juice is one of them. But if you must go out, chose a daytime party or event that won’t require spending thousands of shillings on alcohol.

However, if you are entertaining and want to wine and dine your guests you could make it a BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze).

Stay home

This may sound boring, but the truth is, if you decide to spend your holidays at home, you will eliminate the cost of fuel or fare and costs associated with going out like paying for food and drinks at a restaurant.

This may even be the perfect time to just relax and unwind, have some time to meditate in the peace and quiet of your own home without adding the financial burden that comes with having fun.

Also remember, we are living in the time of a pandemic. There’s no better way to limit your chances of catching coronavirus than staying home.

This is also the perfect time to catch up on your favorite movies or television series, or getting around to those chores that have been postponed for weeks.