It’s November; that means that the holiday season will soon be here. While this season is always a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones, there’s one part of the holidays that very few think about, and that’s out-of-control spending. The average American household racked up over $1,000 in debt during last year’s holiday season, and likely spent the next several months paying it off. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can enjoy this time of the year without going deep into debt. Here are five ways to stay on budget this holiday season.
1. Get Organized
One of the best ways to stay on budget during the holidays is to have a budget in place. Prior to making any holiday plans or going shopping, you should determine exactly how much you have available to spend. The earlier you start this, the better; additional time may give you more opportunities to save money for everything you’d like to do. Once you have a budget, make a list of everything you’d like to do over the holidays. Your list should include the gifts you want to buy everyone, any travel you’ll have to pay for, and parties you intend to host or attend. Once the list is complete, reconcile it with your budget, and cut anything that you cannot afford. Although all this planning can be time-consuming, building a blueprint for your holidays is one of the best ways to ensure you enjoy yourself without damaging your financial security.
2. Be a Savvy Shopper
The budget and lists you made to stay on budget this holiday are worthless if you shop chaotically for Christmas gifts at the mall, or haphazardly book your holiday travel. Instead, you should be methodical when it comes to holiday shopping and try to spend your money wisely. Don’t shop at stores or online unless you’re armed with a shopping list and your budget. Try to utilize promotions and coupons to save as much money as possible, too. Similarly, when it comes to booking travel, make accounts on multiple platforms, such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak. Doing so will enable you to scout out the best deals. If your holiday plans involve you staying away from home for long periods, try to spend as much time with friends or family as possible. They’ll appreciate your company, and it’ll save you on lodging and meal costs. If you do have to book lodging, look for deals on the aforementioned travel websites, or on sites such as Airbnb.
3. Give Creative Gifts
Everyone loves giving gifts during the holiday season, but they constitute one of the biggest expenses this time of year. Last year, the average American spent about $1,000 on gifts for other people. If you have a tight budget or are otherwise trying to keep spending in check this holiday season, being creative with gifts is a great way to go. Rather than heading to the mall, consider putting your creativity or good will to use instead. If you have a particular artistic or crafting skill, such as painting, knitting, or calligraphy, you could make unique and memorable gifts for your friends and family that don’t cost you anything except your time. You could also provide “coupons” to friends that offer your own free services, such as cleaning, snow shoveling, or yard maintenance. Any way you do it, finding alternatives to the shopping malls can save you real money this holiday season.
4. Bring the Party to You
Along with gifts, holiday travel can stretch your budget super thin in November and December. One way to save money (and avoid hectic holiday travel) is to host friends and family at a holiday party of your very own. Instead of traveling to multiple places to visit family, make your home the center of holiday festivities and fun. Plan a major party, and then invite all your relatives and friends to it. In many cases, people will be grateful that someone else is willing to assume responsibility for planning and hosting a party. Doing so will eliminate the travel and lodging expenses that you’d ordinarily incur this time of year, too. If you do it right, you’ll be able to give your friends and family a memorable holiday experience while saving money at the same time.
5. Keep Track of Your Spending
No matter how good your holiday spending plan is, inevitably, you’re going to have to deviate from it. You’ll have to take an unexpected trip to see relatives, or need to buy a nice outfit for a formal office party. Whatever the reason, everyone has unexpected expenses during the holiday season. The key is to avoid letting your spending balloon out of control. One way to ensure you stick to the principles of your budget is to take stock of your spending. Check your bank and credit cards routinely to make sure that spending aligns with your budget. If you find that your holiday activity is starting to cost too much, make necessary adjustments to get your expenses back in line. Routine assessments will help you keep track of your spending and give you the best chance of staying on budget this holiday season.
A Fun, Budget-friendly Holiday Season!
Many people go overboard with spending during the holidays, but you don’t have to let that happen this year. The holiday season doesn’t have to break you. You can spend time with your family and friends, exchange gifts, and have a great time this year without going deeply into debt. Just follow these five tips and stay on budget while you enjoy the best holiday season ever!