The holidays are officially here! Many people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars more during the holidays than they normally spend. A considerable amount of this money may be allocated for gifts for family members and friends, but travel expenses, holiday décor, entertaining expenses, and more also can cost a small fortune.
If you struggle financially during the rest of the year, you can understandably expect to feel intense financial stress because of these additional expenses throughout the holiday season as well. Adjusting how you manage and spend money BEFORE the holiday season arrives may decrease related stress in the weeks ahead.
Create A Budget & Spending Plan
Before you begin spending any money on presents, travel, party planning, and more, create a spending plan that covers income and expenses for the next few months. A smart way to approach this is to determine which expenses you will pay for out of each paycheck that you receive for the next few months. Because expense can run high during this time of year, this spending plan may replace the typical monthly budget that you live by. If you live on a tight budget, it is in your best interest to take this step several months ahead of time. Remember to update your plan regularly so that you always know where you stand financially. By preparing and reviewing a spending plan upfront, you may be able to determine if you need to find a part-time seasonal job to cover some of your extra expenses.
Stick To Your Shopping List
As part of your spending plan, decide which gifts you want to purchase for each person on your list. Creating a shopping list may help you to avoid overspending at stores. This step will help you to more easily stay on track with your spending plan while still buying thoughtful, quality gifts for those on your list. Consider window shopping online while you create a shopping list so that you can more accurately determine how much your gift ideas cost. If you are an impulsive shopper, it may be helpful to make all of your purchases online. By shopping online, you may have presents for out-of-town recipients shipped directly to them, and this may help you to save money.
Look for Sales and Promotions
Many items that you have decided to purchase may go on sale in the weeks ahead. You may need to purchase some items well ahead of time, such as if you need to ship them to recipients overseas. However, even with timing concerns in mind, you may find multiple sales and promotions on most items on your list. If your spending plan has been created with full-cost prices, you may be able to save a substantial amount of money compared to original estimate. Keep in mind that sales and promotions also extend to travel plans, party décor, food and more.
If you are in the habit of living on a tight budget and using credit cards to pay for unexpected expenses, you may want to adjust this behavior before the holidays. One leading way to avoid debt during the holidays is to have enough money in your savings account to cover all planned expenses. It is also wise to fund an emergency savings account before this expensive season arrives. After all, it is easy to overspend at this time of the year, and an emergency savings account provides you with access to additional cash to spend as needed. Keep in mind that credit card purchases may be convenient now, but they can result in substantial hardship in the months and years ahead as you try to pay the balance off.
Downsize Holiday Plans If Necessary
As you walk through these steps, you may realize that you simply cannot afford to spend money as desired throughout the weeks ahead. The best time to make this realization is well before you begin spending money on presents, travel and other expenses. When you understand what your budget is for these items upfront and how much cash you have available to spend on them through savings and other financial resources, you can determine what aspects of your plans need to be downsized. For example, you may decide to skip holiday travel plans so that you can avoid credit card debt. Perhaps you will only host a few friends for a small holiday party rather than a lavish affair with dozens of invited guests.
It is easy to go overboard throughout the holiday season. After all, you may want to be generous with your selection of presents, visit family in another state who you have not seen recently and more. However, when you spend money impulsively rather than strategically, you may suffer from financial stress for months to come. Regardless of how much spending you have already done, consider implementing these tips to manage your holiday spending going forward.