The holiday season is here. There are so many fun things to spend money on like gifts, decorations, parties, travel, etc.
The stores are decorated with Christmas trees and twinkling lights. TV commercials tell us about the “great deals”. Families and friends are making plans for holiday parties and activities.
With all the pre-holiday noise around us, it gets hard to remember how to control our holiday spending.
Follow these simple steps to avoid overspending, stick to your holiday budget, and keep more money in your bank account:
Create a holiday budget and stick to it.
No one wants to hear the word “budget” when it comes to preparing for the holiday season. But if you do not want to drain your bank account, this is exactly what you need to do.
Before you make a list of all the things you want to buy for the holidays, you need to create a realistic budget. A holiday budget will be helpful to know your limits, so you would not be dreading a moment when the piles of credit card bills will come due in January.
Decide how much you can afford to spend on things like:
- Holiday cards
- Holiday meals
And do not forget to budget for additional costs of holidays such as gift wraps, wrapping supplies, stamps, packing materials, and shipping. It all adds to the price of your gifts.
Make a shopping list.
Do not go to the store without a shopping list because it is so easy to get caught up in the moment and overspend.
Before going to the store, make a list of your family members, friends, and neighbors and assign a gift budget to each name. Also, you can add to your shopping list a few gift ideas for each person.
I like to use a small notebook for my shopping list with names, gift ideas, and the total amount of money I can spend. With all details listed in my notebook, I enjoy my shopping without worries of getting into new debt during the holidays.
It is a smart idea to start shopping early because you will have more time to shop around and very often get the best price. Moreover, you will have time to compare prices at different websites and retail stores. That gives you more options on what to buy and helps to save money.
Last-minute holiday shopping is stressful and often comes with the risk of paying much higher prices.
Limit your gift list.
Do you have a list of all people you give presents to every year? Do you buy gifts for family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors? Be honest and ask yourself if you really need to exchange gifts with all of them?
If you have a big family, it will be hard to limit your gift list. But if you still buying gifts for relatives you ever hardly see, consider dropping them off your list and just send the holiday cards instead of presents.
Consider a DIY alternative and buy fewer gifts.
Another way to control your holiday spending is to buy fewer gifts. Change your shopping habits to fit your holiday budget.
With fewer store-bought gifts, you can get creative and make one DIY gift for everyone on your list. It can be homemade cookies or holiday sweets in a glass jar, a framed family photo, or a special ornament.
Here is the list of free or affordable holiday gifts for family and friends:
- Homemade treats – put a dozen of home baked cookies in a cute tin or mason jar with a ribbon.
- Homemade bath gift set – fill a box with bath salts, soap, candles, matches, and chocolate.
- Christmas tea box – fill a box or a canvas bag with your loved one’s favorite tea bags and a cute ornament or card.
- Holiday plant box – fill a box with the cute succulents.
- Hot cocoa party gift – fill the Christmas-themed mugs with hot chocolate and marshmallow bags.
- Christmas potpourri – fill a small glass jar with candy canes, greenery, cinnamon (it will smell like Christmas), and decorate with a festive ribbon.
- Ready-to-bake cookies gift – prepare a cute sack filled with a dry mixture of ready-to-bake cookies.
- Make a colorful printout of the 10-minute meditation or relaxation guide and wrap it with a ribbon or ornament.
- Frame a memorable family photo.
- Offer to put actual photographs in a photo album and catalog them.
After all, homemade gifts are a great alternative to store-bought gifts. Most people understand the current state of the country and economy and would be grateful for whatever gift you get them.
Other alternatives to holiday spending – Sacred Santa gift exchange, holiday e-cards, holiday potluck party, etc.
Shopping online became so convenient in recent years. The number of people shopping online instead of going to retail stores is growing every year.
Most of us prefer to shop online in the comfort of our homes and avoid the stress of fighting traffic on the roads, and then circle the lot looking for a parking space.
Also, the online shopping brings a lot of advantages if you want to control your holiday spending. The biggest advantage is how easy it makes for you to compare prices.
Check out these deal-oriented websites:
You can automatically check prices all over the Web by using the browser extension Honey. Also, this browser will help you find and apply coupon codes to save money.
Moreover, you can earn cash back on your online shopping by signing up for a website like Rakuten.
Pay with cash and leave the credit card at home.
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment during holiday shopping. You are in a store, you put everything you like in a shopping cart, and it is overflowing.
It will be so convenient to pay with your credit card. But do not use your credit card unless you are sure you can afford to pay your bill off at the end of the month.
Once you figure out your holiday budget, take that money out of the bank account and stop shopping when the money is gone. Paying with cash can help to limit your spending.
It is smart to pay with cash and leave your credit card at home. Which means you will pay only for what you can afford. Ask yourself if you really need everything you put in that shopping cart?
Be selective on holiday gift deals.
Do not fall for all those holiday gift deals. Many of these big deals you find during big sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not actually deals at all. I personally do not like to get into this holiday deal bonanza and prefer to start shopping early.
Recently, I have read that ‘Black Friday is a better time to buy newer, big-ticket items. And Cyber Monday is a better day to shop for tech deals and smaller gifts’
Even we see thousands of deals during the holiday season, it does not mean they are all worth shopping for. Be selective. Create a list of things you are hoping to purchase and make sure to do your research on what you will be buying.
To save money, check and compare prices online before setting foot in a store. The goal should be to buy the best product at the best price.
Resist temptation and know when to stop.
It is so easy to go overboard with holiday shopping. While visiting a mall it is hard to resist temptation and do not buy something “extra”. It could be a little present for yourself, new towels for the bathroom, new luggage set for future travels or nice lunch with your daughter.
If you buy too many “extras” you can blow your holiday budget fast without having any idea where your money went. I found it easier to set a budget for my holiday “extras” so I can enjoy spending the money within that limit.
Once you have bought everything on your shopping list, it is time to go home. I know it is not that easy to resist the temptation to stop at other places and see “what they have on sale”.
But no matter how good the discounts are, you should not be buying things that are not on your list.
Enjoy your holidays.
You do not need to spend a lot of money to be happy. The joy of hosting fancy Christmas dinners, giving expensive gifts, and throwing big parties will soon be replaced with the stress that comes later when you have to pay for it all.
Planning, dealing with a budget, and controlling holiday spending can be frustrating for many people. But what makes holidays memorable is not the money you spend but the time you spend with your family and friends.
Time is often harder to give than anything else. Spending time with your loved ones can be as simple as baking holiday cookies, decorating a Christmas tree, lighting candles, or just watching a movie together.
How do you control your holiday spending? Do you make a holiday budget? Do you prefer to shop online instead of driving to the mall?