As the holidays get closer, many military families find themselves looking for ways to save money and budget appropriately for the upcoming gift-giving season. Random COVID-19 impulse buys, a downward spiraling economy, job loss, and purchases related to new homeschooling or virtual schooling curriculum are leaving many of us financially stressed in 2020. Check out these holiday budgeting tips that will help you start the new year off on the right financial footing.
Tips on budgeting for the holidays
So how do you try to save and budget for this holiday season when your finances may have taken unexpected hits because of the coronavirus pandemic? Financial expert and military spouse Lacey Langford from The Military Money Expert says there are three things you should evaluate when you start budgeting for the holidays: your current holiday savings, the total amount you want to spend for the holidays, and who is on your list.
“Knowing how much you have to spend is the jumping-off point for your budget,” Langford said. “Then you can look at [ways to save] between now and Christmas.”
You will also want to examine how much you want to spend for the holidays. You can do this by looking at your current savings account balance. Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings as your emergency and investment amounts to find your total holiday shopping budget. Once you have that number, you can write down the people on your holiday shopping gift list, and assign each person an amount of money you would like to spend on them. “[When you] know who you’re buying for it makes it easy to firm up your spending budget,” says Langford.
“Save money every month, starting in January. … Set up an automatic $100 transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month. By the time November rolls around, you’ll have $1,100 to holiday shop with,” Langford suggests.
But don’t fret — if you aren’t that organized with your holiday budgeting this year, you can still do some things to help you save some cash for the next several weeks:
- Don’t procrastinate: Shop sales when you see them. You can even do this throughout the year.
- Use apps like Qube Money that utilizes the popular envelope system or Tiller that helps you budget throughout the year.
- Cancel your cable or streaming services.
- Honey and Rakuten are two websites that offer cash back for purchases made on other sites — even Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target participate
“Don’t forget to use your military benefits when shopping for the holidays,” Langford said.
Shop My Exchange, ID.Me Shop, and GovX are all military-specific and provide discounts or lists of companies that give military discounts online.
The military exchanges also offer a new layaway program as well. Layaway not only helps you pay for what you can manage in a certain timeframe but also allows you to stick to your monthly budget. There are several different options for layaway, from 30 days for clothing and handbags up to 120 days on fine jewelry. A deposit purchase of $25 and 15% of the item’s purchase price, plus service fees are required to put your items on layaway at any military exchange. You can find out more information by visiting the Exchange website.
Even if your family is in a good place financially, you should start considering your holiday budget about 6-8 weeks using the funds you have saved away throughout the year. Budgeting is a great way to keep your family on track, make sure your nest eggs continue to thrive, and help your family prepare for the unexpected — like a worldwide pandemic.