For many of us, 2016 was a doozy, but we here at Brit + Co are ready to hit refresh in 2017! Follow our Hit Refresh series through January for new ideas, hacks and skills that will help you achieve (and maintain!) those New Year’s resolutions.
No more chestnuts roasting on an open fire. No more candy canes and mistletoe. It’s a new year and new beginnings. Yet, for many of us, there is a big 2016 reminder looming overhead… your holiday bills.
With the average American spending nearly $1,000 on holiday gifts, not to mention an extra $150 on themselves, many will be waking up in the New Year to a larger credit card bill.
Did a few extra gifts jump into your basket at checkout, or did dinners, travel and parties get the best of your budget? Either way, looking ahead to a healthier relationship with money starts with knowing where you are today. It’s time to be realistic in 2017 and take the necessary steps to make room in your budget to pay off the excess of 2016.
So if you’re in the majority that got a little too festive with your shopping last month, here are a few tips to help you undo some of the damage of a blown holiday budget and prepare you to avoid similar surprises in 2018.
1. Pay down debt. Figure out how much more you owe and how much you can afford to spend each month to pay down your credit card debt. If you’re managing this debt across multiple credit cards, consider consolidating it onto a single card, so you have a clear picture of how much is owed and can avoid managing multiple payment due dates. To stick to your plan, set your target amount on auto-pay for a specific period of time.
2. Review your spending habits. Did anything surprise you about your holiday spending (you spent how much on white elephant gifts?!?)? Check out your holiday spending from the past two months and come up with a realistic budget for the holidays next year. Don’t forget that extra hostess or teacher gifts can add up as much as the big expenses for family gifts and travel.
3. File your taxes ASAP! If you’re someone who typically gets a tax refund, it might make sense to file early and use the refund to cover outsized holiday costs. Throwing your tax refund at your holiday debt probably isn’t nearly as fun as that trip to Cabo you were planning, but it might help you sleep better at night. Using TurboTax online is easy, accurate and money-saving.
4. Save for 2018. Build your planned holiday expenses into your annual budget and begin saving each month. If a monthly savings plan is out of reach in the short run while you’re paying off your credit card, know that once your card is paid off in three to six months, you should then plan to add savings for the holidays into your budget for the remainder of the year. For instance, if your holiday budget is $1,500 and you want to start your holiday shopping in November, you have 10 months to set aside $150 a month. Either way, thinking ahead is what matters most!
5. Make time for a personal finance app. Tired of reconciling your bills and checking accounts? Staying on top of your money takes time and effort. Consider taking the work out of budgeting, savings and bill payment with personal finance apps such as Mint or Digit. These apps give you a clearer picture of your expenses all in one place, as well as keep track of your bills and progress toward your savings goals.
6. Find a buddy. Saving for anything is hard work that often feels more like “no, no, no” than something to celebrate. But tracking down a friend to go on a “spending diet” with you can really help keep the finish line in sight. While money can be a taboo topic, start a conversation with a few friends about what they spent over the holidays, uncovering any surprises they may also be facing in the new year. Share your goals with your buddy and check in from time to time on how you’re each doing.
These one-time or seasonal expenses can often put the biggest dent in our budgets, leaving us with more than our checking accounts can handle. So, take some time as you start the New Year to think about upcoming expenses for that music festival or vintage chair you’ve been coveting, and come up with a budget (and a buddy) to make it a reality.
What are your best budgeting tips? Share them with us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)