Ah, the month of December is finally here! Lots of things are happening around this time of the year; not only is the new Hobbit movie coming out, Christmas and New Year are just around the corner. Just imagine yourself on a stroll through a mall on chilly, mid-December weekend. You can hear Bill Crosby singing Christmas carols in the background, you can see twinkling displays and smell cinnamon and vanilla wafting through the air. The atmosphere feels jolly and everyone is in a good mood.
When we talk about Christmas, we always think of food, gifts and family. There’s also the spending part. There’s nothing wrong with spending on something you and a loved truly deserve, but you should be spending wisely. While some believe money is no issue as long as what they are buying is worth every penny, most will be looking at mountains of presents and shopping to be done and will wonder how to fit everything within their budget. It’s hard for anyone to control their spending during the holidays. Even though Christmas is a festive time, you should have a spending game-plan or you could find yourself in financial trouble. If you want to avoid overspending during the holidays, then it’s essential to keep track of your finances and still have some left for the new year.
10 Tips To Help You Control Your Spending During The Holidays
If you think that you can’t get through the holidays without spending a fortune, read on and get some tips on how to make this season a wonderful one (without getting slammed with a large credit card debt).
1. Plan A Budget
When you start to budget for holiday spending, factor in all the holiday-related purchases such as family pictures, food, decorations, new clothes, cards and postage, travel, gifts and other presents. It will surely add up and might be more than you realize. Having a budget will help you have a realistic spending plan that you may need during the holidays.
2. Set Limits
Set limits on your total holiday spending. Give yourself and your credit card a little break by limiting what you purchase. This is the best time to create or get your budget into a fine shape and then use it to decide how much you can afford to spend. The budget that you can reasonably spend on presents should not be the budget allotted for your bills. Try to spend cash instead of getting cash advances from your credit card. Set a budget that you can stick to without racking up your credit limit.
3. Personalize Your Gifts
Another good way of lowering your holiday spending is to have personalized and affordable gifts for each recipient. You can go to a chocolate shop that makes handmade confections wrapped in beautiful packaging and imprinted with a custom message. It’s thoughtful and no one can resist chocolate!
4. Make Your Own Christmas List
Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world – you don’t. If possible, minimize the number of people that you have on your present list. You can bake some cookies, brownies or make some fruit cake to give to people who you have taken off of your original Christmas gift list.
5. Shop When Stores Stock Up
If you decide to shop the traditional way, you should figure out the best time to buy. Try asking a salesperson or a shop keeper when the new stock will arrive. Most stores will often mark down their prices or put discounts on old merchandise to free up space before new stock arrives. This way, you can have first dibs on the discounted goods, whether it’s clothes, electronics or other gift-worthy items.
6. Base Your Budget On Your Own Finances
Say your brother paid off his student loans 5 years ago and always gets you fancy gifts, you don’t have to follow suit if your financial situation is in a different shape. If you have any doubts that your gift won’t be appreciated because it’s not expensive, think back to what your loved ones and other family members gave you when they were in a tight financial situation. Nothing will change, your love with one another is not measured on how expensive your gift is.
7. Avoid Using Your Credit Card
We all know that using a credit card is very convenient, but you have to be cautious because you can get easily carried away and spend out of your budget when using your card. Why is this? Because you don’t physically see how much you are spending. If you’re spending cash, especially the amount you budgeted for holiday expenditures, you will have a bit more control when spending. If you have the cash and it actually runs out after your Christmas shopping, it’s time go home and wrap all the gifts that you have purchased. Pat your back and say that you have accomplished your mission.
8. Arrange For Gift Exchanges
The fastest way to go over your budget is to try to purchase something absolutely everyone you can possibly think of. If you have a very large family or a group of tight-knit friends, this can be a dilemma. Buying gifts for everyone will thin out your resources faster than your receding hairline, so instead, arrange for gift exchanges or “Secret Santa”. Draw names out of a hat so that each person will buy and receive a gift for just one other person. This will reduce your gift-giving expenses and allows for a more thoughtful gift-giving.
9. Potluck Your Christmas Parties
Putting on a good holiday spread can cost you a lot of time and money. Instead of buying or preparing everything yourself, ask your friends or family members to bring their favorite food and do a potluck party. This will create variety among the food served on the table. Let your friends and family know what you need and they will surely help out.
10. Give Your Time
Your mom or dad or other far away friends and family might not want anything more than a visit from you. Your presence may mean a lot to them than any gift. Still, you can bring small gifts and very large hugs. But if you’re a little tight on the budget and want to send a gift, a calling card will do. The card will let them buy a few extra minutes to call you when you can’t visit or fly to see them. It’s also one good way of letting them know that you truly miss them especially during the holidays.
You are in charge of your holiday finances. Do not open any store accounts because you cannot afford presents you think you need to buy. Do not spend just for the sake of buying, instead have a game plan and arm yourself with a budget that you can spend within its limit and without making yourself look like a total Scrooge.