With the holiday season upon us now is arguably the most important time of the year for budgeting, especially with countless holiday sales and the desire to purchase gifts for those on your list. However, there are some tips for holiday budgeting that can help you enjoy the end of the year while still being responsible in your spending.
Make a List & Have a Plan
Having a plan for holiday gift giving is very important and the best way to start is to make a list. Taking 20 minutes to write down every person for whom you'll need to get a gift will help you remain focused and organized. Don't forget important people like teachers, dog walker, cleaning team, plus the office gift exchange. And remember, a gift, whether store bought or homemade, is wonderful way to show the people in your life you appreciate them.
Holiday Spending is More Than Gifts
When budgeting for the holidays remember that while buying gifts may make up the bulk of your year-end spending, there are other costs to consider as well. Your budget should include costs for travel, the cost of groceries if you are hosting large family meals or get-togethers with friends. If you aren’t hosting, chances are you may need to bring food or drinks to gatherings to which you are invited. Decorations, holiday greeting cards, gift wrap and supplies, and even end-of-year charitable donations are all additional expenses to consider and include in your budget.
Set Limits on Gift Purchases
It is extremely helpful to set a “no more than” amount for each person on your list. This is helpful even when you don’t know what to get that person because it helps you avoid over-spending. Of course you will likely need to have some discipline and will-power to stick to your number because you will see sales—and therefore temptation—all around you. That’s why it’s key to have some parameters for each person. Don’t buy something you wouldn’t otherwise just because it’s on sale.
Be Smart - Price Check!
The internet is a great resource during holiday shopping. Stores are especially competitive during the holidays so it’s always smart to ask if they’ll price match other stores, even online prices, which are often less than in-store prices. When you find something you plan to buy, do a quick Google search to see if it’s less elsewhere. It’s also a good idea to be on the mailing list for stores you frequent as they’ll usually send special holiday coupons. Don’t forget to search the internet for coupon codes if you’re buying online.
Meaningful Gifts – DIY Style
Homemade presents are a perfect way to save money while creating something memorable. Naturally such gifts are not likely to work for everyone on your list. They are wonderful options for some.
For example, delicious cookies and a homemade card for your kids’ teachers or a framed family photo for grandparents are much more valuable than a shirt someone likes but doesn’t need.
Although they are less personal, gift cards can be a good solution for the hard-to-shop-for people in your life. These include in-store cards, as well as debit cards without fees. Sometimes these gift cards are for a set amount, but often you can select the amount which helps you stick to your budget. Gift cards to places like restaurants and movie theaters often enable you to select the amount you want on the gift card as well.
Keep Track of Your Spending
This seems obvious, but the reality is you likely won’t know how much you’ve spent unless you keep track of it. Keep your receipts and be sure to enter the amounts in your budget as you go. Waiting to enter the receipts later will likely cause you to go over your budget. One option to consider during the holidays is what experts call “the envelope trick,” which means you use cash as much as possible to ensure you stay on budget. When the envelope is empty, you’re done buying presents. If you use credit cards for convenience, make sure to pay them in full at the end of the month so you’re not stuck with interest payments that you didn’t factor into your budget.
Holiday shopping and spending can easily cause stress, but if you set a budget and stick to it you can go a long way to making this season more relaxed and enjoyable.
Happy Holidays from JBT!