Holiday décor and music are filling department stores, Starbucks and Dunkin have released their holiday drink menus, and some people have already started putting up their trees. Although I'm not quite in the holly jolly spirit yet, I have begun financially planning for the holidays so that my debt doesn't outweigh my cheer. Below are the tips I'm using to keep myself in check as I kick-start my holiday spending.
1. Start with a plan in mind.
If you create a budget for the next celebration shortly after ending this year’s festivities, it will be easier to calculate the cost and give you exactly twelve months to save for next year. Include all expenses such as traveling, food, gifts, and decorations. Saving monthly for holidays will minimize the need for debt and can reduce stress so the merriment can be fully focused.
Pro Tip: Open a savings account with your financial institution and set up a monthly auto payment to make saving easier and more convenient.
2. Make lists and stick to them.
Take a lesson from Santa and make a list of names and gift ideas for each person. It is wise to ask them for gift ideas to save time and ensure the gift matches their wish list.
Pro Tip: If you have a budget in mind, it may be appropriate to communicate that to avoid awkward over-budget requests. Also, it is a great idea to make a list for yourself that contains varying price points to give to friends and family who ask for ideas.
3. Make your gift a creative one.
Do you still have that blanket your grandmother made you? Do you treasure the scarf that your best friend made for you? Handmade gifts come straight from the heart and should not be overlooked, especially when money is tight. There are many low or no-cost projects that can be found with a simple search of the internet. The gift of time or experiences are also priceless gifts that don’t have to break the bank.
Pro Tip: Ensure the project does not include costly supplies and look for sales at your local hobby shop throughout the year. Another perk of savings for the holidays year-round is you will have the money available when the sales happen!
4. Compare in-person and online shopping prices.
As shopping trends continue to shift in favor of online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores offer more enticing prices to lure customers back to their stores. The prices being offered can be significantly lower, especially when factoring the shipping price into the total cost.
Pro Tip: Many brick-and-mortar stores are matching the prices of their online competitors. If the store declines to match the price, the option to purchase online is still available.
5. Manage expectations for the children in the house.
Not only will this help shift the focus of the day from gifts to the meaning of the holiday, but it is a teachable moment for the child about the value of money. Many households ask children to prioritize their wish list, putting the most wanted items first.
Pro Tip: Give your child a budget and ask them to ensure their asks fit within the budget.
6. Get creative with wrapping paper.
Wrapping paper is expensive, and it will only be ripped and thrown away. Being creative with the materials that are already in your home could save quite a bit in packaging. For example, colorful ads mailed to your home make fun bows, and newspapers can be an interesting way to wrap a gift. For an added touch of creativity, save fall leaves or clip some greenery to add to the ribbon.
Pro Tip: Cereal boxes or boxes from shipments throughout the year can be good replacements for the pricey decorative ones.
7. Make the holiday meal potluck.
One of the hardest parts of hosting a gathering is deciding what to serve. Then the host gets stuck in the kitchen all day, creating the feast that everyone will enjoy together. By hosting a potluck, you are delegating the responsibility of the meal to others in attendance.
Pro Tip: A fun potluck tradition to start could be a family and friends bake-off challenge. Let the children be the judges.
8. Be flexible and plan for travel in advance.
By booking travel 60-90 days in advance, you can ensure accommodations are still available and can significantly cut the travel cost. In addition, knowing your trip is planned can help reduce holiday stress since you have already marked that task off your list.
Pro Tip: Evaluate whether the travel insurance is worth the price carefully by reading the cancellation policy of the booking you made.
A Pew Research study in 2013 concluded that 33% of Americans say they dislike the commercialism or materialism of the winter holidays, and 22% said they dislike the expense most. Conversely, the study showed that 69% of Americans most enjoy the time with friends and family. By implementing a few of these strategies, you can spend more time enjoying the holidays and less on buyer’s remorse.
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