It’s the most wonderful time of the year until you receive your credit card bill.
The average American will spend over $960 this holiday season, according to a recent poll by the National Retail Federation. That’s a hefty amount of extra money to come up with for holiday expenses. So, how can you control holiday spending without being a Scrooge? Here are five suggestions to curb spending while staying festive.
Set your budget and stick to it
Before you start shopping, analyze your expenses and set a reasonable budget that won’t break the bank but will still give you enough to buy the gifts you want to give. Once you’ve set your holiday budget, make a commitment to stick it when shopping, even using cash instead of a card for a visual reminder of how much you have.
Before you hit the mall, ask yourself these questions:
What is my total budget?
Who am I shopping for?
How much can I spend per person?
Where am I going to shop?
Don’t forget to include the cost of wrapping paper, holiday cards and mailing expenses. These oft-forgotten costs can add up quickly.
Do your research
Window shopping is a fun holiday activity, as window displays are festive and beautifully decorated. It can also be practical and help save your budget. Before making any holiday purchases, take the time to compare prices, both in stores and online. If you know what you are shopping for, you can see which store has the best deal to save you money.
Make a list and check it twice
Santa double checks his naughty and nice list, and you should, too. People get in the habit of giving gifts year after year simply because it’s the holiday season. However, if you aren’t close friends and are giving out of obligation, reconsider your gift list. Remove anyone who is an acquaintance if you feel guilty, send those people cards, which will still be less expensive than most gifts.
For those that remain on the “nice” list, consider drawing names among family members or a group of friends instead of buying individual gifts for every person. This is a great way to cut down your shopping list and may actually result in nicer gifts, as it can cost less to buy one expensive gift, rather than 10 cheap ones.
Consider thoughtful gifts over pricey gifts
Because your favorite memories are probably more about what you were doing or who you were with than the things you had, allow that idea to permeate the holidays. Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s are magical because of family and friends, not because of commercialized gifts.
A bar of unique chocolate from a local chocolatier may be just as exciting as the latest gadget for someone you love.
When making your list, you could also consider nonmonetary gifts like time and service. You could offer to watch your siblings' kids so they can enjoy a date night. Or, invite the family over for a dinner and movie night. Those are gifts that become lifelong memories, and they will keep your budget in check, too.
Take advantage of coupons and sales
While crowded stores can be chaotic, the discounted prices may be worth it. Most stores have incredible holiday offers that can help save you money. When shopping on a budget, see which stores are having sales, when they are offering the sale and how much you’ll save. Set aside a weekend when you’ll handle all your shopping, take advantage of the sale and save yourself financial stress in 2018. Here are some other suggestions on how to save money and control your spending this month:
Dedicate a portion of your paycheck to holiday spending
Download money-saving apps and monitor prices
Cut monthly expenses and spending from now until January
Shop with cash you’ve saved and keep your credit card at home
Cash in credit card reward points, and shop using that money
Christmas is meant to be joyful, so use these five tips to help you save money and truly appreciate the holiday season.
If you need help sticking to a holiday budget, see how FAB&T can help.