It’s the most wonderful time of year for a lot of people. But for your wallet? It can be the most stressful time of year. This year, retailers are rolling out the holiday marketing even earlier than usual. Whether you’re shopping early sales or trying to get ahead of long shipping times, keep in mind these smart holiday spending tips.
1. Make a list, check it twice
Before you go on a spending spree, create a list of who you want to buy gifts for and set a budget amount. You already know it’s a bad idea to go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Similarly, it’s dangerous to go shopping without a plan regarding who you’re going to buy for and how much you can reasonably afford. Now, we all want to be generous but not everyone needs gifts. And if you want to buy gifts, they don’t all have to be expensive. A nice plant, a journal, or book can all be nice, affordable gifts.
2. Use cash, not credit
If you want to have a smart holiday spending strategy, here’s a simple secret: use cash. Credit card rewards can be enticing but it can also be super easy to keep charging more on your card. Using cash forces you to spend only what you have available to you in your bank account, which can be the set amount that you have budgeted for holiday shopping.
3. Look for the deals ahead of time
A little research can go a long way when it comes to holiday shopping. Do a quick online search for coupons or deals from your favorite stores. Do a quick scan of any coupons and deals in the paper. If shopping online, see if you score free shipping with codes from RetailMeNot or get cashback from Ebates. There’s nothing worse than buying something and then seeing there was a deal or coupon that you didn’t take advantage of.
4. Track your spending
Smart holiday spending starts with budgeting and tracking that budget to hold yourself accountable. You must track your spending to actually make sure you’re staying within budget. Otherwise, the budget has no purpose!
Of course you can track your spending online but to create a little more acknowledgement — and a hint of pain, and write down every holiday purchase and how much you spent on a piece of paper. Use an old school pen and paper. Having the feeling of writing down how much you spent with your hands can make it more real. This can help you stay more accountable instead of mindlessly spending and checking up on your budget later.
5. Don’t say yes to everything
During the holidays it seems like there’s an endless stream of gift exchanges and get-togethers. While it’s fun, merry and bright, it can cut into your budgeting for the holidays big time.
Limit the engagements you say yes to, stick to your budget. For example, getting a gift or a food or drink item for every party or engagement can add up quickly. Only go to the truly important events with your inner circle. Let’s face it, you really just want to be around your closest friends and your family anyway.
Smart holiday spending starts with you!
Typically, come January 1 it can feel like a hurricane hit your finances. But that only happens because you’re not engaging in smart holiday spending. Use these five tips while budgeting for the holidays and feel good going into the new year.