6 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Holiday Budget
It’s that time of year again. The holidays have finally arrived. Have you been preparing for them? Or are you going to throw caution to the wind and wing it this holiday season?
It’s one thing to make your holiday budget. The tricky part is sticking to it. You have gifts for family and friends, parties, and a slew of other expenses that come with this time of year. Having a solid budget is one of the most important things to consider. After all, you want a great holiday season, but you don’t want to break the bank to achieve it.
Here are six tips to help you stick to your holiday budget.
1. Create a budget.
Although this may seem like a no brainer, in order to stick to your budget, you have to create one first. Some people may try to aim for a ballpark amount or try and gauge how much they’re spending based on memory. While this may work for some people, deciding not to make a budget can set you up to spend more than you planned. Take the time to do a few calculations and create a budget based on your monthly expenses. With your budget in place, you can start planning your holiday. Need some help starting a budget? Check out our Financial Resources page for helpful tools and worksheets.
2. Track your expenses.
Try to record all your holiday-related expenses, even if they feel insignificant at the moment. Small items, like wrapping paper, bows, and all those tiny add-on gifts, will slowly build-up, giving you less money to spend on those big-ticket items. By keeping track of even the tiniest expenses, you’ll be able to make adjustments more easily.
3. Stick to your list.
You have your list of people and what you’re buying them, now don’t make any sudden changes. This is easier said than done. However, impulse purchases and last-minute add-ons will put a dent in your budget. Every little purchase you make will add up no matter how carefully you planned it out. That’s why it’s important to stick to your list, and once you figured out, not to deviate from it.
4. Use the 24-hour rule.
When purchasing an expensive gift for a loved one (or yourself), take some time to think it over. While you’re out shopping and something pricey catches your eye, hold off on buying it right away. Take a night to sleep on it, then if you still think you need it, go ahead and buy it a day or two later.
If you’re shopping online, go ahead and leave it in your shopping cart for a day, but don’t check out. Come back the next day, and then make a final decision. You may even find that by waiting, you’ll get a better deal.
And remember, family and friends won’t be expecting you to break the bank, so if that gift isn’t within your budget, something less expensive, but more thoughtful, will do just as well.
5. Plan for next year.
Although the official start to the holiday shopping season starts on Black Friday, you can avoid the crowd and save yourself some money by starting things off earlier. The earlier, the better. Some gifts such as winter coats, scarves, and boots can be bought at a fraction of cost in spring and the summer. The same can be said about decorations like artificial trees and other holiday staples.
6. Start saving for next year.
Start setting aside some money from each paycheck to prepare for next year’s holidays. One option to help you accomplish your goal is to set up a Christmas Club account. You can have a little bit from each check sent straight to this account, then on November 1st the following year, the money will automatically transfer over to your checking account. The added funds from your Christmas Club will make budgeting for the holidays easier, as well as remove some of the stress that comes with this time of year.
With some careful planning and budgeting, you’ll be on your way to a less stressful holiday season.