The holiday season is officially here, and with it comes parties, dinners, new outfits, and, of course, gifts! Year after year, we overspend to make the holidays as special as possible. Oftentimes, that means dipping into savings to make sure everyone on our list is covered. This year, let’s try something different. Now is the time to make sure you have a full understanding of your holiday budget — and to set up a plan to track your spending while making sure to protect your savings account. Here are some tips that will help you do ALL this and still have fabulous, fun-filled holidays.
1. Make a budget (and stick to it!). Set a realistic budget that’s not so constrained that you’ll ignore it, while making sure it’s not so loose that you’ll get yourself into trouble. Use a budget app like Mint to figure out where you can cut spending in some categories to put toward the holidays. (It’s a bit late for 2017, but the earlier you do this in the year, the better!) Use holiday shopping as a way to celebrate the ones you love, but also check in with yourself. Tick a gift off the list? Sit down for a latte and spend some time enjoying the energy of the season. Or if there’s an extra purchase you can’t get off your mind, hold off on buying it in the moment: Take some time to think through where you might shift your holiday budget to make room for that awesome holiday surprise!
2. Make a list and check it twice. It’s easy to get carried away this time of year — presents for all your coworkers and your hair stylist and your barista — but you need to draw the line somewhere. Make a list of who you want to buy gifts for and stick to that list. It’s also helpful to look at your newly established holiday spending budget and determine how much you want to spend on each person. We love our friends and family and want to give them the best, but sometimes (or most of the time) this is beyond our means, so set realistic expectations. Having a shopping list also helps keep you focused while you’re browsing online or out on a shopping excursion. This is especially true while you’re clearing your email inbox! Enticing newsletters with last-minute deals often encourage impulsive buying (there’s a reason they do this!). Consider unsubscribing from retailer emails during the holiday season to avoid temptation.
3. Paper or plastic? As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it. Try going shopping the old-fashioned way by taking out the exact amount of cash that matches your budget goal. If you do decide to use a credit card to pay for gifts, make sure you use one that offers the most advantageous rewards and manageable fees. Review the interest rate, return policy, billing cycle, credit limit, and late fees. This will make sure you earn something from the spending while also protecting yourself from unexpected fees or interest charges. When it’s all said and done, don’t forget to pay off your credit cards!
4. Don’t touch that end-of-year bonus. If you receive an annual bonus (congrats!), don’t factor this into your holiday spending. Treat unexpected income as an addition to your savings, not an addition to your spending. Ideally, you’ll transfer the full amount to your savings — but if it’s really required to meet your holiday budget, take only the part of the extra income you absolutely need and make sure to put away the rest.
5. Remember why budgeting is important to you. At the end of the day, keep in mind why you’re being diligent about your holiday spending this year: Saving is important to you. Not only does it set you up for the future, but it gives you the flexibility to make choices that fuel your life in more ways than you know. Financial freedom, security, education, travel, or home ownership — your hard-earned dollars do a lot more than add some sparkle at the end of each year. Consider keeping visual reminders (pictures, trinkets, inspirational quotes on Pinterest boards or in your wallet) to stave off any temptations to blow through your savings with all the excitement of the holidays this year.
When all is said and done, be sure to keep a few extra dollars for yourself. While the season of giving gives us all the feels, it’s nice to bring home some cheer too — whether it’s holiday entertainment, new home decor, or festive fashions. Being mindful of the treats you buy for yourself will help keep all of these tips on track in a way that’s not only stress-free but good for your savings. You’ll thank yourself in 2018!
Share your best holiday budgeting tips with us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)