While most people were engrossed in their Halloween costumes, party planning and over-buying candy for trick-or-treaters; I was putting the final touches on my spending plan for the holiday season. “Why,” you ask? Primarily because I’m a financial nerd – I’m just wired this way. More importantly, in the past I’ve fallen victim to not having a holiday spending plan in place and was stuck with the resulting credit card debt well into the New Year.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the holiday season can be a stressful time. We all feel the pressure of buying great gifts to show our loved ones how much we care, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the financial strain associated with gift giving is often considered the most stressful part of the holidays.
Wouldn’t it be nice to experience the joy of giving without the post-holiday misery of debt? With a little advanced planning and control over impulse spending, it is possible. To get you started, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your holiday season without carrying a financial hangover into the New Year.
Create a budget
To avoid unexpected expenses adding up, take the time to think about where you’ll be spending money this time of year. Start by creating a list of the people that you plan on giving gifts to and determine a maximum amount you can afford to spend.
Based on that number, establish an amount that you can spend for each gift. Make sure to also factor in incidental expenses like travel, entertainment and meals – as these are often overlooked. To help you gain a more accurate picture of how much you truly spend, try looking at last years bank and/or credit card statements to get a baseline of your holiday spending in the prior year and make adjustments as necessary.
Be honest with yourself about what’s realistic on your newly created budget. Although you may want to buy gifts for everyone from your parents to the barista at your favorite coffee shop, be mindful that there are other ways to give if your budget won’t stretch that far. Dig into your creative side and come up with thoughtful gift ideas that let people know that you care, while staying within the parameters of your spending plan.
Remember, an expensive gift isn’t the only way to show your love and appreciation.
With your budget firmly in hand, you are now ready to go out and hit the stores. Although you have a set amount to spend on gifts, saving a few dollars here and there on those planned purchased will go a long way.
For starters, resist the temptation from retailers that want you to agree to their credit cards in exchange for saving a percentage of your purchase amount. Although you could potentially save a few dollars, keep in mind that these store cards are notorious for having high interest rates. Remember that all credit card fees and interest can increase the total amount that you spend in the long run, so try to use cash whenever possible. This way you’ll have no choice but to stay within your spending limits.
In addition to finding ways to save while out shopping, another money saving strategy is to look for ways to cut back on your regular spending. If it’s possible, consider lowering or eliminating extraneous bills to help free up funds to put toward your budget.
If you’re like me and have already cut as much as you can from the household budget, consider working a few hours of overtime or taking on additional work on the side – you’d be surprised how far that extra money can go towards paying for the items on your holiday shopping list.
Starting today, there are only eight shopping weeks left until Christmas day. Don’t be the person that waits until the last minute to buy gifts – the holiday season is already stressful enough. Instead, try to plan ahead as much as possible and space your purchases out over the next several weeks.
By starting early you can take your time to seek out the best deals possible and only spend your money where you get the most value. Early shoppers also have the advantage of the best merchandise. Typically right after Halloween, most stores are stocked full with new items. Being one of the early birds means that you won’t have to settle for picked over piles or search through the leftovers of last minute shoppers.
If you’re an online shopper, you can also benefit from shopping early. Many online retailers are beginning to offer deals and, in some case, will allow you to take advantage of free shipping promotions if you spend a certain dollar amount.
Enjoy the season
The holidays are meant to be a joyous time spent enjoying the company of family and friends, not stressing about finances. By starting with a plan and finding ways to stretch your budget along the way, you stand a better chance of staying focused on your loved ones and avoiding the post-holiday stress.
Make it your goal to reduce your stress this holiday season. Create a spending plan and start implementing your plan today. Once January rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.
Have you started creating your holiday spending plan? Do you have any additional planning tips?
This post was written by Kelby from TheFrugalennial.com
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.