The holiday’s can be a stressful time for many, particularly as it relates to financials because they can be expensive, and expectations are often high. With the holiday season quickly approaching, we sat down with The Financial Gym to get some expert guidance on Holiday Budgeting. Their team offered us six tips for you and your employees to help keep holiday spending manageable this year.
- Know your expenses. Get clear on what your expenses for the holidays will look like so that nothing comes as a surprise. To do this, consider all the areas you may need money for this season. This includes: gifts, tips, donations, travel, holiday decor, and extra food for entertaining.
- Figure out where the ‘holiday money’ is coming from. This is an important one that many don’t plan out ahead of time, causing them to dip into savings or rack up debt. Think about where your holiday money is coming from. Do you have a special savings account dedicated to the holidays? Is your side-hustle income being used to fund the holiday spending? Are you getting assistance from a charity or family? Will you be putting it on a credit card? It’s never too early to start thinking about how you will fund the holidays- in fact, the sooner you can plan for it, the better!
- Make a List. Write or list out all the people to whom you will be giving gifts, and any gift ideas you hav for them. This includes friends/ family, tips to your buildings super, a gift for your kid’s teacher or a tip to the postman. Think about any travel you may be doing; what decor you want/need; extra food for entertaining or charity donations you will be making. Does your family send out holiday cards snail-mail style? If so, think of the printing and stamp cost. Assign a spending budget per person or family and try to stick with it. Additionally, when shopping- try to maintain your focus on whom it is you’re buying for. It is easy when shopping to see things we would love for ourselves, and “Add to cart”. Before you know it, you’ve burnt a hole through your wallet and still have several people on your list to buy gifts for. When planning gifts for others, shop around a bit to find the best price. Check out websites like RetailMeNot and Honey for e-coupons.
- Don’t Get Struck By the Sales. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both approaching quickly. Get clear on the gifts you want to buy for the people in your life and commit to it. These big sale days are helpful when there’s a plan, but can be detrimental to our pockets when there isn’t. When things are on sale, we think we’re getting a great deal, but really we’re spending money we weren’t planning on. Just because it is on sale, doesn’t mean you saved money. Unless it was part of your holiday spending strategy, it means you spent money you weren’t originally planning to. Keeping this in mind can help keep your budget and buying habits in line.
- Set boundaries. Setting boundaries and expectations with family members and your kids is also a key strategy. Communicate with your partner to make sure they’re on same page as you in regards to spending. If you have children and your budget has changed from previous holidays, it’s okay to let them know that gifts this year might look a little different than last. Some parents choose to give one or two gifts per child, or something they want, need and read. If you’re a couple who hopes to buy a home, contribute what you’d have paid for gifts instead to a savings account, or invest in an experience rather than “things”.
- Cost reduction tips. Use gift cards you have to purchase gifts or re-gift gift cards. If you do decide to give gift cards, use sites like giftcardgranny where you can buy them at a discounted. Can you use your credit card rewards point to buy gifts? Do you have a service that you can give? For example, can you mow your friend’s lawn for a month in the summer? Are you a calligrapher and can design a logo for someone? Giving a talent or a skill is cost-cutting and adds a beautiful, personal touch. No matter what holiday you celebrate, consider hosting a “Secret Gift Exchange” or “White Elephant” style party to make gift-giving exciting and cost-effective. Agree on a budget that works for everyone. You can even add another layer by choosing specific themes that participants have to adhere to.
Remember, the holidays are not an emergency and shouldn’t mean that you dip into your emergency savings to cover costs. We know they come every year and can and should plan for them! Avoid the holiday debt cycle by saving early or trying to reduce your spending. Think of the top three things that are most important to you for the holidays. For example, if that’s travel (gas); gifts and food, then try to lower the amount spent on holiday decor or wrapping paper.