It may seem early, but now is the time to consider how you’re going to finance the upcoming holiday expenditures. It starts with Thanksgiving dinner and the travel to get there. Immediately following is the Christmas season with gift giving, party hosting, and more travel. Then, we top it all off with New Year’s Eve. Without proper planning, you could find yourself with an avalanche of credit card bills in January. And that’s no way to start off a new year. This year, try the following five money saving tips to make merry without busting your budget.
1. Create a Budget
Make a budget for the entire holiday season or break it down into smaller categories. It’s your preference, but either way, set a spending limit. Keeping this in mind will certainly help you save money while you shop. For example, consider establishing an individual limit for everyone on your gift-giving list, and make sure you can afford the total (don’t forget to account for sales tax). When you go shopping, carry your handy list with you to stay within budget.
2. Save on Gifts
There are plenty of opportunities to save on gifts this season, such as Black Friday. But you don’t have to wait long to shop, as online specials will begin as early as next week. As a matter of fact, if you plan ahead, you can get the majority of your shopping done via the Internet and avoid other holiday shoppers and the cost of gas. Sign up for email alerts from your preferred retailers and join FatWallet. This website does all the work for you; it sends the best deals, online and in-store, from everywhere right to your inbox.
3. Make Holiday Dinners Potluck
There’s no need to slave in the kitchen to create an entire holiday feast. Instead, let your invitees contribute. This is a great way to reduce your grocery bill, free up time, and please even the pickiest eaters in your group. Plus, everyone will take their dishes home with them – which means less clean up in the kitchen for you.
4. Pay Cash for Everything
One fool-proof way to stick to your budget is to leave your credit cards and check book at home and simply bring cash. This way you know exactly what you have to spend and can’t spend any more than that amount. Try using an envelope budgeting system for the holidays. Simply create envelopes for different holiday expense categories, such as decorations, and put only the amount of cash you’ve budgeted to spend on each category in its envelope. If this works for you during the holidays, you may want to try it year-round.
5. Shop Now for Next Year
You already know that holiday accessories are steeply discounted the day after Christmas holiday decorations, wrapping paper, and even plastic cutlery are available at huge discounts – think 90%. When Christmas is over, it may not be as much fun to buy, but just think how much fun you’ll have next year when you un-box and put up all those stellar decorations you got for pennies on the dollar.
Ideally, the holiday season is a time to relax, connect with family, and take a break from everyday stressors. But you don’t have to neglect a budget to do that. Keep the true spirit of the season in mind and realize it’s not about what or how much you buy, but the feeling behind everything you do. And most of all, give yourself a little something this season. How about starting the new year off with no new debt?
How do you save during the holidays?
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from David Bakke. David is a writer for MoneyCrashers.com, a popular personal finance blog. He writes about saving money – particularly when it comes to holiday shopping and Christmas season preparations.