The best way to control holiday spending is simple: create a budget, stick to it and get started early!
When establishing a budget you have to be realistic about the money you have to spend. You want to avoid credit card debt that will take you most of next year to pay off. If you haven’t already, start setting aside money now. Look for ways to get extra money from your personal budget like putting your gym membership on hold for a couple of months, carpooling to work or for children activities, taking your lunch to work or eliminate trips to Starbucks and make coffee at home.
Be as detailed as possible. Start with what you think you need to spend money on and make a separate list for what you want but don’t need. Do you need to buy a holiday dress or can you borrow one?
- Gift giving: Make your naughty or nice list! Who do you really need to shop for and how much are you going to spend on each person. Be sure to include family, friends, teachers, co-workers, hostesses or surprise guests. Don’t forget to include costs for gift wrapping supplies, shipping costs and stocking stuffers
Tip: get creative with your gift giving by making homemade gifts; they are the best when they come from the heart.
- Food: Will you be hosting a holiday party or a dinner? Calculate money needed for invitations, stamps, food, drinks and decorations.
Tip: look for items from places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, The Dollar store or yard sales for cheap decorations or mixed matched place settings for a creative table scape.
- Travel: Whether by train, plane or automobile include tickets, airfare, gas, parking, hotel, extra baggage or taxi costs.
Tip: book your travel early to get the best deals!
- Holiday cards: Include costs for stamps, cards, professional photos, holiday outfits and haircuts.
Tip: consider taking your own photos and sending out free e-cards.
- Activities: Put some money aside for some fun activities like holiday plays, ice-skating, dinners out or community events.
Tip: you can find many activities during the holiday that are free like Christmas-light-gazing or tree lighting ceremonies.
- Charitable donations: Donations of gifts or food to a charity organization for those less fortunate.
Tip: give away unused blankets, jackets, clothing, non-perishable food items from your pantry or volunteer your time.
Stick To The Plan
Once you have established the necessities stay within your budget. Stick to the list of people, items and amounts to be spent for gift giving. Black Friday’s and Cyber Monday’s are great ways to find discounted items but be careful! It is easy to get carried away and want to buy more. Use your budget as a tool to have a debt-free season but don’t be afraid to modify or make trade-offs when you have unexpected situations occur.
Get Started Now
Creating a holiday budget can be challenging but the time spent now getting organized will be money saved in the future.
Carry a list of items that you will need to purchase including gifts, grocery (foods that won’t spoil), decoration etc. with you at all times. Look out for deals, as these items go on sale you can purchase them early and check them off your list. If you purchase items as you go you can use the cash that you have set aside. Most people will use credit cards because they are making a lot of purchases all at once. If you are planning on charging your purchases choose a credit card that has a low interest rate.
By following a realistic budget, you will be able to enjoy a more affordable and less stressful holiday season.