Don’t let the holiday season undo a year of financial progress. Although too much merry-making can do a number on your bank account, it is possible to stick to a budget this time of year. Follow these tips to stay on budget when shopping for gifts, planning holiday entertainment and making travel arrangements.
First, create a budget.
Before you start spending money, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Create a holiday budget, and allocate funds for gifts, entertainment and travel.
If your plans are bigger than your budget, you’ll probably need to think about ways to trim your holiday expenses. Although you might be able to find some extra money by cutting back on regular expenses – like cable or expensive lattes every morning – avoid going into debt. It doesn’t make you a Scrooge. It just means you’re responsible.
Save on gifts.
Santa makes a list, and so should you. Take a few minutes to think about everyone you need to buy a gift for, including family and friends. Remember to include any office gift exchanges or other holiday obligations you may have. Once you have your list, determine how much you can spend on each person.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, but there are still a lot of great deals to be had. Shop around for the best prices, and check for coupons both in print and online. Keep the receipts in case you need to return anything.
If you’re still coming up short, try these tactics:
- Give homemade presents. If you’re not crafty, consider making baked goods or other edible items.
- Instead of giving gifts to everyone you know, arrange gift exchanges among your family and friends.
- Consider not participating in the office gift exchange.
Save on food and entertainment.
Hosting holiday parties can get expensive fast, but there are ways to cut down on the costs without skimping on the fun.
- Forget the shrimp. Go for delicious but cheap bites, like the inexpensive ideas for holiday food from Real Simple.
- People will often ask if they should bring anything. Say yes! Wine and desserts are easy but helpful items for guests to bring.
- Turn the party into a potluck.
- Decorations don’t have to be expensive. Head to your local dollar store or other discount store.
Save on travel.
It’s a busy time of the year for travel, and all that demand can really increase costs.
- Stay with family or friends. Having your own hotel room can be nice, but staying with friends and family is cheaper. Besides, isn’t the whole point to spend time with the people you love?
- Pack light. Avoid paying extra for baggage by packing light. Of course, this can be difficult if you’re bringing a bunch of gifts with you. If you’re ordering items online, arrange to have them shipped directly to the place where you’ll be spending the holidays. If you’ll have time, you can also buy bulky gifts once you reach your destination.
- Shop around for the best deal. Thanks to the internet, this is easier than ever. Sites like Airfarewatchdog will send you alerts when fares drop.
- Consider alternatives to flying. Depending on where you’re going, you might be able to take a car, bus or train for less.
Start thinking about next year.
If you really want to save on things like cards, decorations and gift wrap, take advantage of post-holiday sales and store the stuff until next year.
You can also buy gifts throughout the year, whenever you spot a good deal on something you know someone would like. This will cut down on some of the stress of holiday shopping, and it will help you spread out the cost. For additional financial planning assistance, talk to the experts at PTT Financial. Also be sure to download our free report, “The 6 Pillars of Financial Preparedness.”