For many, the holidays are one of the favorite times of the year. Especially for those of us who innately have a giving and generous nature, we love searching for that perfect gift for all those on our list.
This may be a huge list that includes tons of people—from our partner, kids, and other family members, to a myriad of co-workers and even the guy who brings around the mail. For some, the list is even larger than that… growing to include literally everyone they encounter on a regular basis, such as the garbage and mail man or lady and even the news carrier.
Yet, that only scratches the surface of potential holiday expenses. Add to the gift list holiday parties, get-togethers and dinners, travel and trips, and holiday overspending is easy to do.
To avoid post-holiday spending regret, it’s important we address and attend to the monetary aspects of the holidays as strategically as we regularly strategize and plan regarding our money, business, or career.
Here are 5 tips to help you avoid overspending this holiday season:
Set a budget
Just as with any other major expense (and who could argue that the holidays aren’t a major expense), it’s vital to set a budget for the holidays. Look at your finances honestly and set a realistic amount that is available for you to spend.
Then, divide that amount out over the various expenditures you’ll have during the holidays:
Gifts for everyone you plan to buy anything for such as partner, kids, family, co-workers, employees, service providers (such as your hairstylist, barista, mail person, news carrier(s), parking attendant(s), etc.).
- Wrapping expense (paper, bows, tags)
- Holiday décor / lighting
- Parties and events
- Special attire for parties and events, get-togethers, etc.
- Trips (gas, hotel, outings)
Make a List
Once you have your budget set for each of your main holiday spending areas, then you’ll want to break each expense area down into another shopping / spending list. Be very specific with a maximum spend per item.
Any time you go out and approach shopping / spending money with a list, you are much less likely to overspend. Of course, the key is sticking to your list. Additionally, if you find you overspend in one area, be sure to make an adjustment to your list. You’ll want to “find” that money in another area and subtract it from the budget for that expense.
Shop for Deals
The Internet makes it SO much easier to find deals today. Sites like Amazon.com and now, even Google – will show you where items you are looking for are available and the current price. Of course, don’t count out Groupon either. Groupon offers big discounts on many popular items. A lot of the electronics there are Refurbs for a sometimes huge, price reduction and often, still with the original warranty.
Likewise, many stores with a website have an Outlet or Clearance section. Be sure to check for items on your list there. Often, you may find last year or last season’s model for a big discount with nearly the same features.
If you do shop and buy online, you should try http://honey.com. Once you sign up for free at Honey, when you check out on a website, Honey will automatically check for sale coupons and online discount codes available. Sure, you can do this search for yourself (such as searching for “Best Buy coupon codes”). However, with Honey, even if a coupon code is not available, at most stores, Honey will still give you a cash back credit to your Honey account.
Look for Areas You Can Lean Up or Cut Expenses During the Holidays
The good news about the holidays is that it really is the thought that counts in most cases. Therefore, look for ways to cut expenses by seeking out things you can do yourself for lower cost, that still show appreciation. Can you spend a day making cookies for service providers? Jams or jellies? Maybe you like to make cute, original, picture frames? These would be great gifts with your favorite pic of the person or their family inside.
Similarly, you can save money on family outings. In most situations, it costs very little to pile in the car and go look at lights. Or to have a family movie night—at home! Get some different flavor popcorn sprinkles, buy some boxed candy from the dollar store, and it’s a much cheaper alternative than the theater!
Pay Cash and Not Credit
It’s SUPER easy to overspend using credit. Money spent on credit often doesn’t feel quite “real” because it doesn’t immediately affect the wallet or pocketbook. Therefore, it’s easy to just keep spending so long as the credit is there and worry about it later. Yet, WORRY about it later you will when the bill comes due. This is a surefire way to feel post-holiday regret about spending!
If you do need to purchase large items and just don’t have the cash available right this minute but know, for example, you’ll be getting a holiday bonus, consider no-interest split payments. Retailers that will let you pay for items in multiple, no-interest, simple installments such as HSN, QVC, or evine let you split your payment over anywhere from 3-4 months. Since there is no interest, this is a much better option than a credit card if used responsibly and wisely.
Yes, the holidays are amazing and fun. And most all of us love to see the expression on the faces of those we care about when we deliver the perfect gift or gifts they were desiring. Yet, we must show this same appreciation to ourselves by making and sticking with a budget that we will be happy about come January, as well!