The holiday season is here. Whether you were walking around in October wondering why the Halloween and Christmas decorations were occupying the same space at your favorite retailer, or if you and your family were busy putting up winter decorations on November 1st, there is no denying that the holiday season has arrived.
There is also no better time than right now to think through your holiday spending. When planning for your holiday expenses, it may be easy to overspend if you haven’t thought through all the little (and big) things that may add up during the holiday season.
Here are some tips that may help you keep your holiday spending on track.
1. Make a list. Check it twice.
Make lists of gifts for friends and relatives. If you need to, pare the list down, or think of other things you can give those on your list, like household chores or time. Sometimes that is all your friends and relatives want from you.
2. Make a budget. Keep to your budget.
If you only want to spend a certain amount, write it down and stick to it. If you need to, reach out to family and friends to set limits on gift-giving costs. Also, include the costs for shipping, if needed. That is an expense that can be easily overlooked.
3. Cards for the season.
Remember to include holiday cards and stamps in your budget. Stamps went up in price again, to 50 cents this year. That can be a big expense if a holiday card list is 100 people long, equaling $50 just in stamps! Not to mention the cost of cards and/or photos.
4. Food for the masses.
Whether you have a house full of guests or you keep it small and intimate, chances are you will spend more over the holidays in food and drinks. You may do holiday baking, treat yourself and your family to a special meal out, or purchase more groceries than usual. Add it all to your budget.
5. Consider cutting back on your routine “wants” during the holidays.
When you know you may be spending more on eating out, gift-giving, stamps, postage, groceries, etc., think about what items you can cut back on during the holiday months to keep on track. Maybe your daily latte fix needs to be altered for the month of December?
When planning for the holidays, consider your budget and how to enforce your own restrictions on your spending. This may help you feel less overwhelmed by it all. The last thing you want is to start 2019 feeling underwater or overextended with a large bill to pay from the holidays. While you are celebrating this time of year, keep in mind that it is likely the time with friends and family that matters most. The holiday season is a great time to relax and enjoy friends and family, and staying on-track financially may help you enjoy the season just a bit more.
Hint for 2019 holiday spending: After you’ve added up all your expenses from the 2018 holiday season, start out 2019 with a small “holiday” savings account that you can use next year. Take the total amount you spent this season (say $500) and divide that amount by 10. Save that amount ($50) every month from February – October. You can set up a transfer with your financial institution, so it will go into your savings account automatically, each month or each time you get paid. That way you will never see it in your transaction account. Viola! By November next year you’ll have a little extra cash for the holidays.