When you start hearing Christmas carols on the radio and the holiday merchandise begins to take over the store aisles, you know it’s fast approaching that special time of year once again. And with Christmas just around the corner, the spending that goes along with it isn’t far behind.
Whether it’s the cost of purchasing gifts, visiting friends and family, or throwing a great holiday party, the price of creating Christmas cheer seems to go up with each passing year. Add to that the added expense of keep the kids entertained during the holiday break, and many parents are at the end of their ropes by New Year’s Day. Here are some easy ways to get financially prepared for the holiday break to avoid over-spending or over-stressing.
Easier said than done, of course, but examining exactly where you are financially can give you a clear perspective on where your immediate needs lie and what resources you have to cover them. Once you have a list of your financial responsibilities for the month, compare that figure to your total income for the same period. By deducting your expenses from your net income, you have a general idea of what your budget will be and how much you can afford to spend on holiday related expenses.
Once you have this number, you can begin creating a list of priorities, including gifts, travel expenses, food, beverages and any other purchases that have to do with celebrating the holidays. Approaching holiday shopping with a plan is the best way to avoid the last-minute chaos that inevitably leads to impulse purchases and overspending.
The best way to avoid overspending over the holidays is to ensure that your accounts can handle the expense ahead of time. There might be some expenses you can cut back on now so you don’t have to sacrifice later – maybe bringing your own coffee instead of going to Starbuck’s or bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out could help you save up the extra money you’ll need for the holidays. You may even want to consider a side-hustle like driving for Uber or Lyft in your spare time.
The trick is to start saving as soon as possible, and shop as you go so you don’t find yourself relying on credit cards or an auto title loan down the road. Many people prefer to use a single credit card to do all of their Christmas shopping, especially if they are saving travel or reward points. If this is your preference, be sure to pay your card off as soon as possible or the interest and late fees could easily negate any possible advantage to the reward points.
Set the money you can afford to spend aside ahead of time so it’s not burning a hole in your pocket – you want to make sure the essential things you just can’t do without are covered before you spend anything. Lastly, if you know that you’re going to come up short on your holiday budget this year, try to figure out approximately how much extra cash you are going to need. With this information you can shop for a New Mexico car title loan or other emergency loan to get you through the holiday break.
Whether your priority this year is being the host with the most, playing Santa, or simply being at home with your family for Christmas, planning early can help you avoid the stress of holiday expenses. If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail, so establish your holiday priorities early.
Remember to budget your time during the holidays as well, especially if you’re traveling. The last thing you want is to feel rushed in the holiday gridlock. Flying? Kayak helps you compare across airlines and travel sites like Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia, all in one place; you can even bundle a rental car or hotel room if you don’t have a place to stay or car to drive where you’re traveling. If you have pets, you will also want to account financially for their ticket or boarding. Planning for these expenses in advance means they won’t come back to bite you later.
If having the perfect holiday party is your top holiday priority, call upon your friends and family members to create your own personal party committee. Your party buddies can then use resources like Facebook and Pinterest to share and collect ideas for decorations and favors. To ease the strain on your food budget, provide the main course and ask your guests to bring a covered dish, salad or dessert. Putting together the perfect holiday get-together can be a struggle for even the most experienced party-planners, but if you pool your time and resources, you can throw and hugely successful party on a shoestring budget.
Since your list of gift recipients usually doesn’t change much, shopping for bargains year round is a good way to save money and finish all your shopping well before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales even start. If money is still tight, focus on the kids and those you can’t go without gifting – little ones may be less understanding, but close friends won’t mind a small or belated gift.
Too further add to your savings on holiday purchases, Honey is a great app that allows you to find and apply coupon codes to your online transactions from the comfort of home, allowing you to avoid the mall and the hassles of coupon clipping. Ebates is another great option for avid online shoppers to get cash back for the items you buy online. Using these smart money-saving apps on all your regular year-round purchases could earn you enough money to fund a worry-free holiday season.