What brightens up your holiday shopping season? You may prefer a quiet Christmas season at home, large family gatherings at the home of the relative who drew the short straw, or hand-to-hand combat on Black Friday at the mall. However, everyone agrees that saving money on Christmas shopping gives the holiday an extra layer of cheer. Here are nine suggestions to increase your holiday cheer and your savings account simultaneously.

1. Make a List – Avoid the temptation to go shopping without a list and look for holiday inspiration. You'll find inspiration, along with many gift items you didn't really want at a higher price than you should have paid. Know what you are shopping for and avoid costly holiday "mission creep." After all, even Santa makes a list (and checks it twice).

2. Make a Budget – A budget is the key to any form of saving. Once you have a gift list, research all the items on that list to find reasonable prices for those items. Once you see the typical range of prices, you'll know a good deal when you see one.

3. Research Online Deals – Use online resources to your advantage. Retailer websites, apps, and social media contacts, along with sites that track deals, give you plenty of avenues to find great bargains. Search in the comfort of your own home without having to brave the winter weather (or a few thousand of your fellow consumers).

4. Consider Homemade Presents – A knitted sweater or a handcrafted jewelry box not only saves money, it also provides a personal touch that makes your gift special. Can't knit or build things? You may be surprised at what you can learn – and if you find a new skill, you may acquire a hobby that can become a profitable side source of income.

5. Buy Previous Models of Electronics – If you must have the latest smartphone, game system, or Smart TV, be prepared to pay for it. Retailers are always offering deals on the previous version to clear space for the new generations. Will your gift recipient really care if they receive the previous model?

6. Watch Black Friday/Cyber Monday – While they may not necessarily have the best deals, the days around the Thanksgiving holiday have taken on greater importance to retailers. Increased competition has led to increased discounts. Pay special attention to the avalanche of time-dependent deals during the Thanksgiving weekend.

7. Scale Back Your Tree – Do you really need a huge dead tree in your home to enjoy the holiday? Why not switch to a simple artificial tree that can be used year after year? If a live tree is important, how about scaling the size back – or perhaps choosing a small living tree instead? You can plant it after the holidays and enjoy it all year round (assuming that you don't live in an apartment).

8. Wait for Post-Holiday Clearance Sales – Why not stick with small stocking stuffers for Christmas and wait for the post-holiday sales? Desperate retailers will be trying to move big-ticket items that did not sell over the holiday. If you aren't a stickler for a particular brand or specific item, you can pick up tremendous bargains.

The principle extends to smaller holiday items. With luck and timing, you can find wrapping paper, gift bags, ornaments, lights, and other holiday accouterments for next to nothing.

9. Start Earlier Next Time – Here's your holiday shopping tip for 2018 – start thinking of gift ideas throughout the year. The sooner you think of a gift item, the longer you have to search for good deals. You can hide that 4K Smart TV in the closet for 6 months – or, if not, simply have a mini-Christmas in July.

We hope you have an enjoyable holiday and an equally enjoyable post-holiday as you ponder your savings – and, of course, start thinking about gift ideas for Christmas in 2018.

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Photo ©iStockphoto.com/svetikd

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