A Budgeting Strategy for a Financially Friendly Holiday Season
Before you hit the malls or that endless list of online retailers, equip yourself with your very own budgeting strategy. Here are some important tips for avoiding budget pitfalls and some ideas for saving for a more economical season (and thus, a happier New Year).
Tips for the Budget-Conscious:
- Set a reasonable budget: Make sure to include gifts, cards, postage, decorations, travel, gift wrap, festivities, and a little extra for unexpected expenses. Set a budget for stocking stuffers too. Those smaller gift items can really add up quickly.
- Make a gift list: Include each person, some gift ideas, and a set price range. Carry this list with you when you shop and stick to it! And remember, the holiday season might not be the time to go all out on gifts for your favorite people. Save those pricier purchases for birthdays or anniversaries.
- Avoid last-minute shopping: The closer we get to the holiday, the more apt we are to get caught up in impulse buying-all in the name of the generous holiday spirit, right? Wrong! Impulse buying will only rack up the debt and the New Year's guilt.
- Shop with cash or your debit card: A surefire way to accumulate some serious holiday debt is by swiping that interest-accruing credit card at every turn. Keep the New Year in mind when you shop. The last thing you want is to spend several months of the New Year paying off credit card debt. Using cash or your debit card will keep you on track with your set holiday budget.
- Plan ahead for next holiday season: Many banks and credit unions offer special holiday savings accounts. Use this year's expenses to plan for next year's spending, and save for it all year long.
Ideas for the Seasonal Savings:
- Shop online when you can. Most online retailers offer specials on shipping during the holidays. Plus, comparison price shopping is right at your fingertips. Catalog shopping is another great way to avoid going store to store for the perfect gift.
- Don't drive all over town looking for that PlayStation 3 or other must-have gift this year. Call ahead and save on gas and time.
- Save on gift wrap by using brown shipping paper, which comes in much larger and less costly rolls, and splurging on beautiful bows and ribbons or having your kids decorate the paper with paints, crayons or colorful stamp kits.
- Simplify your holiday festivities. Instead of holding a full-fledged dinner party, consider a dessert party followed by a brisk walk to take in your neighborhood's holiday lights and decorations. You can even ask guests to bring their favorite holiday goodies to share.
Take time to remember what the holiday season is all about for you and your family. Odds are it's not about spending as much money as you can in one month. Reflecting on the true meaning of the holiday season can help you mentally prepare before hitting the mall.
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