Take the stress out of the season with a few holiday budgeting tips. As the holiday season approaches, we look forward to some of our favorite things: hot chocolate, candy canes, twinkle lights, and time spent with friends and family. Maybe even a few cheesy holiday movies thrown in the mix.
One challenging aspect of the holiday season, however, can be navigating how to enjoy yourself without the risk of spending too much. Between travel, meals, and holiday gifts, it’s easy for things to get out of hand pretty quickly.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
This year, with a bit of planning and forward-thinking, you can make smart budgeting decisions that allow you to enjoy the delights of the season without financial stress. Here are seven holiday budgeting tips to help you achieve just that.
7 Holiday Budgeting Tips to Enjoy a Stress-Free Season
Tip 1: Make a plan.
The first and best holiday budgeting step is to make a plan. To get started, all you need to do is ask yourself a few important questions:
- How much do I want to spend?
- Who am I buying gifts for?
- What other holiday spending will be required?
While planning ahead is ideal, Raiz understands that life happens. That’s why our promotional holiday rates for personal loans and credit cards are so popular with members. It’s simply perfect for the season to help you stay within budget and save on your monthly payments.
First, decide on a total amount you can reasonably afford to spend during the holiday season. This will keep you from getting carried away in the moment and spending more than you have or more than you intend.
Next, make a list of everyone you want to give gifts to, and set a spending limit for each person.
While the amounts for each person don’t have to be equal—you may spend more or less on certain people—once you add up what you plan to spend on each person, the amount should not exceed the total amount you can afford to spend. Prior to any shopping, it’s best to take a look at your overall budget. If you haven’t created one yet, you will love our easy-to-use, interactive budget course. And it’s free!
If you’re able, think about what you want to buy for them and do a bit of research on how much the item(s) cost. Knowing exactly what you would like to buy each person can help you determine if your plan will allow you to stay within your holiday budget.
While you’re making your holiday budgeting plan, don’t forget non gift-related expenses as well.
- Holiday food and parties
- Cards, postage, and shipping
- Wrapping paper
- Children’s holiday events
- Workplace gift exchanges
These sort of expenses can add up quickly, but if you have a plan and make a budget, you can see the big picture clearly and prepare by saving or cutting costs as needed.
Remember: This may be an ideal time to take a look at your gift list. It’s not necessary to give gifts to everyone in your circle—even if those same people choose to give you gifts every year. It’s also not necessary to match the amount that others spend on you
Exchanging gifts is common during the holidays, but it is not always mandatory. In many cases, people give gifts without expecting anything in return, and the gift is simply a thoughtful gesture….When giving gifts, you should aim to spend an amount that you are comfortable with, not one that you assume another person is spending. (Investopedia)
Before the pressure of the season descends, take time to thoughtfully plan how best to spend your holiday budget.
Tip 2: When possible, pay in cash to curb overspending.
Once you set your holiday spending budget, take this extra step before you hit the stores. Head to the bank and withdraw the amount you plan to spend as cash. Then follow your spending plan and purchase the items you’ve listed on your gift list for each individual.
Since you’ve already researched approximately how much items should cost, you don’t have to worry about running out of cash or overspending your budget.
However, if you do plan to use a credit card for holiday spending, the first step to best using a credit card is to get the right one. That means doing your research. You should consider your spending habits and priorities when it comes to rewards. Are you an avid traveler who wants to earn miles? Or maybe you’d rather just get cashback. If possible, it’s wise to avoid cards that charge annual fees or have extremely high-interest rates.
Once you’ve decided on your priorities, search for cards that will work with your current situation. You should only apply for a card once you feel fully confident that this card will suit your needs and give you the best deal. You should also be fairly confident that you will qualify for it—if your credit score is too low, the company won’t approve your application. Never apply for a card if you’re uncertain whether you can make payments. Multiple applications in a short period of time and rejections can have negative impacts on your credit score.
Once you pick the right credit card for you, it is in your best interest to begin familiarizing yourself with the best practices for using a credit card to keep your credit score healthy. Often times, financial institutions will have limited-time promotions on credit cards to help you lock in a great rate, just in time for the holidays, like the Platinum Mastercard® Holiday Promotion from Raiz!
Tip 3: Shop smart
This is where the power of having a set plan for your holiday spending really shines.
If you know what gift you’d like to buy for each person and roughly how much it costs, you can leverage that knowledge to your advantage while you’re out shopping.
Holiday budgeting can help you:
- Comparison shop. Malls, big box stores, outlets, online retailers—all these sources may have different prices. It’s worth your while to shop around for the best price.
- Take advantage of price-matching policies. Even if you’ve found a good price in one store, know that you can sometimes leverage even better deals with price-matching. While in-store shopping, use your phone to help compare prices with other retailers. With price-matching, you can snag the deal and go home with your item that day without having to pay (or wait!) for shipping.
- Watch for coupons and discount codes. Most of us automatically ignore, delete, or throw away junk mail—both in our literal and digital mailboxes. However, as the holiday season approaches, keep your eyes peeled for deals that can help you stay within your holiday budget.
Remember: Whether you’re shopping primarily in-person or online, always save your receipts. This allows you to return items if they are unsatisfactory and more easily track your holiday spending.
Tip 4: Start early
If you’ve waited until the trees and lights are up in the malls and the holiday music is playing over the speakers, you’re likely to miss some of the best deals.
Retailers both online and off are now offering pre-Black Friday sales. Taking advantage of these often offers you better selections and the best deals.
These days, waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to start your holiday shopping is not the best move. Generally, those “deals” are often the same as regular holiday sale prices, and by that point, pre-Black Friday sales have led to the stock being somewhat picked over.
Tip 5: Head home for the holidays.
Before you jump into holiday spending with both feet, spend some time considering what you may have on hand right in your own home.
First, it’s always a good idea to check your closets for what you already have on hand.
This may include
- Gifts you wrapped but forgot to give last year
- Unopened/unused items you were given that you can regift
- Forgotten decorations
Second, if you’re hoping to spend less online and in stores this year, you can always make some of your gifts at home. Your checking account will be happy you did.
- Handmade crafts
- Homemade snacks and treats
- Personal time and special experiences
Tip 6: Get creative with holiday parties.
If you love hosting holiday parties but are hoping to curb your party expenses this year, consider ways you can trim back your spending without having to forego the joys of hosting.
- Limit your guest list. Sometimes we become so entrenched in our habits that we forget we have the option to change them. This year, instead of inviting the whole neighborhood, just invite your immediate neighbors. Or instead of all the extended family, just your siblings and cousins.
- Scale back your menu. Instead of a full dinner or lavish buffet table, serve light finger foods or cheese and crackers.
- Go potluck. Asking your guests to bring their favorites to share is a great way to help them feel involved and save money at the same time.
These options provide great ways to save money while still getting to enjoy your holiday celebrations with the people who are most important to you.
Tip 7: Plan ahead for the following year
It’s never too soon to get a jump start on the next holiday season.
- Set a bit of money aside each month. Even if you have a modest budget, $50/month will give you a $600 cushion to play with next year.
- Buy off-season. Watch for after-holiday sales for items that will easily save for next year, such as decorations and wrapping paper.
Watch for year-round sales. If you know a loved one’s likes and interests, you can spot sales mid-year and pick up potential holiday gifts at deep discounts, having them wrapped and stored in the closet long before next December rolls around.
‘Tis the Season for Smart Spending
Learn more about Raiz’s Holiday Credit Card Promotion and Holiday Personal Loan today!
With a bit of thought and self-discipline, you can enjoy all this time has to offer and still make it through the season by having a reasonable holiday budgeting plan in place.