Holiday Spending

No matter how well you budget for the year, the holidays always seem to sneak up on you. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, family/friend get-togethers and other celebrations, special occasions just seem to pile on top of each other this time of year. And with celebrating can come a lot of holiday spending on everything from food, to decor to gifts. You can even start out the holiday season with the best of intentions, but once the festive spirit kicks in, all bets are off. The more, the merrier! Just remember, you don’t have to spend a lot to have a meaningful celebration. This holiday season, give your wallet a break with these tips.

Know your limit. Look at your budget and be realistic on what you can spend for the holidays before you hit the stores. Establish spending limits for each person and include possible gifts, dollar amounts and alternate choices – then start looking for bargains early.

Plan ahead. Look for special “savings days” and use coupons from newspapers, online and in-store and watch the advertising and sale flyers for the items you intend to purchase. You may even try to ask retailers when the items you’re interested in are coming on sale – they don’t want to lose your business to competitors so they may tell you! But waiting until the last-minute can cost you a bundle, so, start early, stock up and be flexible. Get prepared by setting aside a savings fund for the holidays for gifts, decor, food and travel and start putting money away for it every week/month. The only thing worse than not being able to afford a gift or some holiday cheer is realizing it at the last-minute. Make the holidays worth celebrating, not panicking over.

Going above and beyond. While it may be tempting, don’t bust your budget! Take time to consider whether that expensive item is really worth it. And speaking of going above and beyond, don’t try too hard to impress.

Take inventory. Before you go out and buy wrapping paper, tape and decorations, check your closet – there’s probably some left over from last year. And be sure to keep it all in one area. That way, you know what you have and you’re not needlessly buying extra just because you see it in the store – or running to grab it at the last-minute.

Trim your list. Remember, you don’t have to buy for everyone. At office parties and other holiday functions where you may be asked to provide a gift, suggest bringing canned food or other items to donate to the homeless/disadvantaged.

Holiday travel. Traveling during the holidays can be chaotic. Did you pack enough clothes? Did you load up the gifts? Did you remember to close the garage? Did you budget enough for travel..? Travel is generally more expensive during the holidays (hotel rooms, gas, etc.). Large expenses are easy to focus on (like airfare), but don’t forget the cost of gas it takes to get to the airport or the cost of parking at the hotel or the rental car. All of those little misses can add up to big expenses.

Spend wisely. Spend cash and avoid using checks or credit cards. Charging purchases tends to promote indiscriminate spending and sometimes you forget to record each check and that can often result in overspending. Coupon clipping applies to holiday spending, too as many retailers have made coupons available on-the-go through mobile apps. Remember to keep liquidators, buying clubs and factory outlet stores in mind when shopping as they usually offer lower prices.