9 Easy Ways To Stretch Your Holiday Budget

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Unless you're a part of the 1%, this time of year can take a serious toll on your finances. It's hard to give good gifts, attend every party, and still look spectacular in your sparkly best...we feel you! That's why, with some help from Alexa von Tobel, CEO and founder of lady's-best-budgeting-friend LearnVest, we've wrangled up a few simple tricks to help you stretch your budget and even earn extra rewards. Take note of our clever tips, and reap the benefits all year long.

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Skimp on the dry cleaning — "Dry clean sparingly," advises Alexa. "It’s easy to blow $50 on a few blouses and dresses. Sometimes it’s necessary, but many times it’s not." She suggests several tips to lower your dry cleaning bill, which can add up to a whopping $300/year (approximately $25/month). Firstly, dry clean items like wool coats much less frequently — "between wears, use a garment brush to get rid of surface dirt." In addition, instead of cleaning a garment for every drop of wine or cranberry sauce you spill, invest in products like Dryel or Woolite’s Dry Cleaner’s Secret for quick fixes.

Sell, sell, sell — It's better to give than to receive, and it's also better to sell than to have a great item sitting, unworn in your closet. Take inventory of the items you know you'll never wear again (that leather jacket that no longer fits, the amazing designer bag that's just not your style) and cash in those treasures for a little extra cash. Bring your goods to a local consignment shop and find out what kind of items they're looking to buy right now. If you're skilled with a camera, set up your own eBay account to clear some closet space, thanks to the highest bidder.

Patience is a virtue — When a beautiful Marc Jacobs coat beckons us, we sometimes can't resist the urge. But with a little patience, you may be able to have Marc and keep your budget sanity, too. Lyst is a website that allows you to get instant sale notifications on the items that are haunting your dreams. We know it's hard to wait when you're in love, but a simple Lyst update can make the difference between fabulous and fabulously broke.

Learn to DIY — Knock the socks off your friends' feet (or knit them a new pair) with a killer DIY present. There are tons of simple, and some not-so-simple, ideas that can help you make a big impact on a small budget. Stay tuned for more of R29's amazing DIY projects coming up soon, or check out past projects for a little creative inspiration, like our own Cut25 necklace and Missoni-inspired sneaks.

Use 'em or lose 'em — Obviously we love a great deal, but somewhere between scoring one and actually redeeming it, we get a little sidetracked and then suddenly we have an expired coupon we can't use. Luckily, Alexa introduced us to CityPockets, an app for iPhone and Android. "One of the best services the site provides is sending you alerts when a coupon is going to expire," she says. "And if you’re not planning on using the coupon, you can even resell it in their marketplace."

Woolite Dry Cleaners Secret Photo: Via Woolite; Gift Card Photo: Via BFishadow/Flickr; DIY Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh; Lyst Photo: Via Lyst
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Market yourself — Branch out to online marketplaces where you can sell just about anything (that's worthwhile, of course) to earn you some extra dollars. We're fans of Copious, a website that links to your Facebook account. No, we're not looking for random "friends," but at least we can put a face to the username and trust that a seller or buyer is legit.

Plan ahead — Make a budget before you start spending on mom, dad, your BF, and your BFF. According to Alexa, the best way to plan your expenses is to make a budget for everyone on your gift list and stick to it. "When deciding how much to spend on each person," she says, "think about what will be most valuable to them — will they value a thoughtful card, home-cooked meal, or museum outing more than a material gift?" This small step will save you from throwing away cash that could have been better spent elsewhere.

Skip the card, get the cash — A gift card to the Cheesecake Factory wasn't exactly on your holiday wish-list, yet there it is. Don't let it waste away in your wallet — that's still $50! Cash in on your unused gift cards, or purchase discounted ones that you can actually re-gift (we won't tell), on the clever little website, Card Cash.

Earn while you spend — If you already know you're bound to wear out the digits on your credit card this month, we suggest you make sure that the plastic is working for you. Look into credit cards that offer cash back or airline miles. Maybe it won't help you spend less now, but it will help you save more later.

Daily Deal City Pockets Photo: Via City Pockets; Copious Copy Photo: Via Copious; Copious Skirt Photo: Via Copious; Credit Cards Photo: Via Andres Rueda/Fotopedia