Does the thought of making it through the holiday season give you a little anxiety about your budget? You’re not alone. Spending has become synonymous with the Christmas and holiday season. According to a report from USA Today, retail store sales in the United States rose over 4.9% in the holiday season of 2017, which was the highest holiday season sales since 2011.
Over the next five years, holiday spending certainly isn’t projected to slow down. In figures recently released by the National Retail Federation, they anticipate retail sales in November and December of 2018 to increase nearly five percent over 2017’s recorded spending, which translates to between $717.45 to $720.89 billion. This amounts to roughly a bit over $967.13 per person.
If you’d rather not be among the ranks spending quite that much, we’ve put together some fantastic tips that can help you truly enjoy your holiday without breaking the bank. Read on for some ways that you can enjoy the holidays while keeping your wallet intact.
Set Your Christmas Budget
When planning your budget for this time of year, remember that spending for the holidays isn’t strictly limited to those gifts you pile into your cart on Black Friday. It also includes any necessary travel expenses, decorations, food for family gatherings and even the gift wrap and tape required to make those packages beautiful and Instagram-worthy under your tree. Decide in advance what you want to spend your available funds on and then break down your overall holiday budget into categories (or by person). Once you have settled on a budget that you can appropriately afford and plan for, be sure to keep your budget numbers and figures close and easy to reference while shopping, such as on an app on your smartphone.
Some people like to add in a little bit of a reserve to their budget because the holiday season and shopping for gifts can be anything but expected. Sometimes you find that perfect gift for someone (maybe even on sale) and want to have the wiggle room in your budget to make exceptions. There’s nothing wrong with this, and you can be sure not to have to stress over these thoughtful purchases with just a little planning.
Make a Shopping List Before Going to the Store
Write down each person you have to buy a gift for, including teachers, mail carriers and other people who provide you services. Try to ‘shop’ before you actually purchase by having an idea of what you would like to give them. This will make it easier to avoid being distracted by the displays and deals that bombard your senses while you shop.
If Possible, Start Shopping Early
While it won’t save money, spreading the expense over several weeks can help keep your budget intact. More stores are offering their holiday specials before Black Friday, so you might just stumble upon the gift you’d like to give in your budget, even if it’s usually not. Does the thought of a crowded store on Thanksgiving night or Black Friday make you tempted to overspend on an item just to avoid it? Well, thankfully it’s becoming more common to actually be able to purchase Black Friday Doorbusters online (in limited quantities) at larger retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Target, all from the comfort of your own home. So, you can avoid some of the chaos, but still get a great deal, if you plan ahead for those release times and get your clicking finger ready!
If an item on your list is especially popular this year, be sure to price check among all retail suppliers, so you don’t wind up overpaying.
Keep Track of Your Spending
It’s far too easy to forget when you’re in the middle of shopping. Keeping a record of every gift will encourage accountability for your budget and keep you on track. While it’s easy to say, “It’s just $20,” it’s a lot harder to ignore the total of your spending.
Be Aware of Holiday “Side Spending”
Travel, dining out and work-related gift exchanges can take more out of your budget than you expect. Try to offset the extras by staying in a little more and cooking a meal at home.
Don’t Try to “Keep Up With the Joneses”
The best way to spread cheer is with a sincere smile, a thank you card and a big hug. Take the time to let those that mean the most to you know how you feel, without feeling like you have to buy a gift. Additionally, make sure that whoever you share your budget with (such as your spouse) and yourself agree on how much and how funds will be allocated. It’s important to communicate and be on the same page to prevent arguments and frustration later.
Consider Online Shopping
Often, brands will have online exclusives that won’t be matched at the store, and more retailers are offering free shipping, either to your home or the store nearest you. The next time you’re relaxing at home, take a moment to figure out what you might be able to save if you’re willing to wait for delivery. This will also save expenses on gas during the shopping season and even some of the time required to hide the gifts if they are for someone in your home!
Avoid Credit Cards Whenever Possible
Unless you can pay the balance in full, everything you purchase will be more expensive once interest starts to build. Limiting yourself to cash will also help avoid overspending. Beware of retail store credit card offers during the shopping season as they almost always carry high or variable interest rates.
Don’t be Afraid to Buy the Same Gift Twice
If you see a steal on an item that you know several people on your list will enjoy, go ahead and buy it. Vary the colors or patterns, but don’t feel that you have to get every person something different just for the sake of not repeating a gift among your recipients.
DIY Gifts are an Excellent Alternative
Neighbors, teachers, mail carriers – all of them will be happy to receive a festive tin of cookies or other treats as a thank you. Try to avoid the most common allergens and purchase decorative containers. Also, you can create family memories while whipping up some tasty confections.
Don’t Forget Shipping Costs When Shopping Online
If at all possible, try to take advantage of ship-to-store offers or take the slower shipping. During the Holiday season, overnight and other rush shipping may be delayed anyway due to the increase in postal traffic, so keep it in mind when you’re tempted to pay extra just to have gifts under the tree early. Save the expedited shipping fees for real emergencies, and combine shipping when possible.
Don’t Forget to Relax and Enjoy the Season!
With a little planning, you can manage all your financial obligations without destroying your festive spirit. We all love to give and receive, but what we remember is spending time with our family and friends. Don’t let stress over finances take that away from you.