The holiday season is fast approaching. My house is already abuzz with talk of Wish Lists, and I could probably wallpaper my entire home with the Black Friday catalogs and advertisements that I have received. And while the [grand] children’s heads might be filled with visions of dancing sugarplums, it’s likely that you are considering the more practical matter of how to fund this most wonderful time of the year.
At this point in the year, there’s not much you can do about setting money aside each month so it will come down instead to careful and thorough planning. Here are some tips to ease the holiday financial stress:
- Create a high level budget. What can you reasonably afford to spend this holiday season?
- Do you have any money set aside?
- Review your income and expenses to determine where you can pull money from (and if applicable, where you can cut expenses to meet your goals)
- If you must use credit cards, have a reasonable plan for paying then back without accruing too many finance fees.
- Create a Wish List for your holiday spending and get specific. The devil is often in the details, and many people go over budget, overlooking the little things. Assign dollar amounts to each item.
Things to Consider:
- Who do you want/need to give gifts to and how much do you want to spend on each recipient? (Be sure to account for taxes and shipping)
- Holiday Meals
- Charitable Donations
- Gift Wrap, Cards, etc.
- Compare your budget to your wish list. How do they match up?
- If it works, great!
- If it doesn’t…
- Take another shot at your list; where can you cut back? Are there things on your list that are unnecessary and wouldn’t be missed?
- Can you get creative and add to that income? For example, do you have anything of value that you don’t use anymore that you can sell? Do you have credit card rewards that you can take advantage of?
- Map it out
- Timing is everything! Consider spreading your spending out over the next several weeks, but be strategic about it. You can likely knock some of your big list items out over Thanksgiving weekend when the deals are great and spread the rest of your spending out throughout December. Create a schedule for holiday grocery shopping, making charitable donations, book travel, etc. to ensure that you are in control of what is going out and when.
- Be in the Know! Do some research and know your prices.
- Stick to it
- You’ve spent a lot of time now mapping out your strategy. Now the most important thing is to stick to it. Bring your list with you or save it as a picture in your phone so it’s always accessible.
- Be prepared. It sounds silly, but if you do a big shopping day, eat first and bring a snack or two. When you hit a wall, go home. You are much more likely to overspend and settle on something when you are overtired or hungry.
- Enjoy the Season
- Your to-do list is likely overflowing and you may be experiencing some financial stressors as well. If it gets to be too much, perhaps it’s time to reassess your wish list.
- Now that you are armed with a game plan, it is my sincere hope that you find this really can be The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
Bonus Tip: Use technology! It can save you money and time. Take advantage of the 7 Best Apps for Holiday Shopping listed at Nerdwallet.