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If you're planning to get married in the first half of 2017, now is the time to start budgeting properly. Why now? Because it's the engaged couple's last chance to get their financial ducks in a row, ahead of the holiday season.
Between holiday travel expenses and gifts for family, friends, and colleagues, many couples find themselves financially tapped out in January and February. That's not going to work for you this year if all of your final wedding expenses are going to be due in the first half of the New Year.
While you cannot use your upcoming wedding as an excuse to skip the holiday gift-giving entirely, you can make smarter decisions ahead of time, so that you don't find yourself paying ridiculous shipping, and higher prices, at the last minute to give gifts that you really cannot afford.
Consider the following five tips to help you avoid blowing your whole wad, and causing wedding budget problems down the road.
1. Make a list of everybody you MUST shop for and evaluate it with your spouse.
If you've previously given individual gifts to couple friends, consider giving just one gift to them together. Let them know that's your plan so they can feel free to reciprocate in kind.
2. Set hard budgets for gifts for friends, and stick to those numbers.
If you tend to overspend on the ones you love, get the gifts early. Wrap them and cross those people off of your list. Not another thought towards picking up little extra goodies or you'll undermine your budget plan.
3. Plan an interactive gift night with close friends, instead of exchanging gifts in the traditional manner.
Make reservations for a special restaurant with another couple, planning to split the tab, as your gift to each other. You'd probably have gone out to dinner together anyway — goose it up a bit and make it an extra special night with appetizers at a trendy martini bar before, and a visit to a champagne or hookah bar after.
See More: Holiday Gift Ideas for Your In-Laws
4. Homemade gifts are wonderful, as long as you don't end up spending more to make them than it would have cost you to buy something similar.
Fall is a great time to make jams and jellies to wrap as pretty gifts, if you're feeling adventurous. All of your DIY gift ideas are sure to be thoughtful, but you have to plan ahead. Otherwise, you'll run out of time, and end up spending money at the last minute to buy gifts when you already have the ingredients and parts and pieces from the craft store at home.
5. Your own families know that you're paying for an upcoming wedding, so nobody will be surprised if you've spent less this Christmas than last.
If you usually get individual gifts for your siblings, their spouses, and each of their children, consider getting a larger "family" gift instead. As long as it's something that everyone will enjoy, the gift will be greatly appreciated.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.