It’s official. The Holiday shopping season has begun. If you are like me and my family, spending for the holidays is one of the biggest budget busters you will face. Even if you have done a great job controlling your spending up until now (and I hope you have!), the desire to splurge during the holidays is all too real.
To help, I’ve put together some tips on how to manage your spending while keeping that holiday cheer:
Create and execute a detailed budget
I know, it sounds cliche, but it works. Start by breaking your spending down into categories. I suggest:
- Last minute miscellaneous
Then, write down how much you are willing to spend in each category. Consider using a spreadsheet with a separate tab for each category or envelopes – the more detailed the better.
For every person you want to buy a gift for, record their name and the amount of money you want to spend on them. If you feel like it’s “you against the world” when you are budgeting, don’t create your budget in a bubble – include your significant other or a close friend to serve as both a reality check and an accountability partner.
Finally, beware the impulse buy – don’t make any holiday purchases before confirming that it fits in your budget or that it’s already in your plan.
Be careful of Black Friday and Cyber Monday
If you’re planning to be one of the over 154 million consumers expected to make a purchase on Black Friday, this one’s for you. The sales can be great, but don’t buy something unless it is specifically covered by your budget and in your plan. So, if you find that 70-inch TV at 50% off, but the price still exceeds your budget, consider not making the purchase – especially not for yourself.
If you feel like you spend more on yourself than other on Black Friday, you’re not alone. Studies show that 60% of the people who make purchases on Black Friday are “self-gifting.” If you can’t find the perfect sale on Black Friday to fit your budget, don’t worry – you still have about 4 weeks until the end of the holiday season and there will be other sales.
If you fall into the category of feeling obligated to shop on Black Friday because it is a family tradition or you like the rush, consider starting a new tradition such as volunteering in your community. Helping others while sticking to your budget sounds like a win/win situation to me.
Find creative ways to save money
If you are getting nickeled and dimed to death by buying a small gift for several people (teachers, neighbors, not-so-close friends, etc.), think of ways to spend less and still provide a personal gift.
If you are a baker, consider making a huge batch of your favorite cookies or pastries and pass them out (just don’t defeat the purpose by going crazy on cute packaging). A good sweet gift can go a long way toward putting a smile on someone’s face while keeping you on budget.
If you are hosting a family dinner for the holidays, consider baking a lasagna or using a more budget-friendly cut of meat, rather than prime rib, and ask your guests to bring their favorite beverage. You will still be serving a great meal and your guests will have the drink of their choice – that makes for a festive and affordable evening.
Managing your money effectively during the holidays does not mean you have to be a Grinch. Just sit with your accountability partner and write down a realistic budget that will still allow you to enjoy giving to others. Start some new traditions that are fun and affordable, and always remember that spending time with others is more valuable than spending money on others.
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