The holidays are all about tradition. The parties, the presents, the partridge in a pear tree – it wouldn’t be the holidays without them. And one of the most common holiday traditions is the tendency to overspend. In fact, Americans spend 9 times more money on retail shopping during the holidays than any other season of the year. But is there a way to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year without making it the most expensive one too? Here are 4 ways to avoid blowing your budget this holiday season.
1. Make a Budget
Is it possible to blow a budget if you don’t have a budget in the first place? It is. And it happens to people every year. If you don’t know the relationship between your spending and your income, you run the risk of overspending. The first step of every holiday spending season is to make a budget that will guide your purchases. Here’s how to start:
- Write down every gift you plan to buy. This includes everything from gifts for close family members to smaller gifts for teachers, co-workers, and friends. And while you’re at it, write down the “white elephants” and charitable donations too.
- Write down all your holiday food expenses. Whether you’re hosting a large gathering or contributing to a family meal, food is another major expense during the holidays. And don’t forget about the holiday cookies, treats, and overpriced eggnog.
- Assign a dollar amount to each item. Estimate how much you’ll spend on each person and each item and calculate the cost of your holiday meals and treats. If the total seems too high, find ways to reduce or eliminate expenses and make adjustments to your budget.
- Stick to your budget. If your budget aligns with your income and you’re comfortable that you can afford the total amount, stick to your budget and don’t stray from it.
2. Get Creative
Who says the perfect holiday gift has to be store-bought? Some of the most meaningful holiday presents come from the heart, and not necessarily the store. A heartfelt holiday card, service project, or plate of cookies can go a long way toward making the season merry and bright. And it can save you a lot of money too. Rather than giving expensive office, friend, or sibling gifts, suggest a “white elephant” exchange. Or consider pooling your money for a secret Santa service project.
3. Comparison Shop and Start Early
Instead of putting off your holiday purchases, take time to do some comparison shopping. With the help of the internet, deal hunting has never been easier. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to helping you find the best holiday shopping deals. But you have to start early. Deals will pop up during the holidays, but usually not toward the end of December. Be patient and be ready to pounce at the right price.
4. Give the Gift of Savings
You’ve spent the entire holiday season thinking of others. Now it’s time to treat your future self. With all the spending going on, don’t forget to keep up with your personal savings and debt reduction goals as well. Make it a part of your holiday budget. With a plan in place to stay on track with your long-term financial goals, you can avoid the stress and guilt of spending money during the holidays.
‘Tis the season to spend money. But that doesn’t mean you have to bust your budget or break the bank. By sticking to your spending and savings goals, you can make this holiday season both happy and affordable.