Tis The Season
This is perhaps the greatest time of year. It is a time when families come together and memories are made. It is also a time when lots and lots of money is spent and debt is created.
If you want to escape the holiday season without a mountain of debt, you need a plan and you need to follow some rules. Take a minute and let us help you set a course for smooth sailing through the holidays
1. Save Money Year Round
First and foremost, you need to save money year round for this expensive time of year. The holidays are too expensive to expect to be able to come up with all of the money with one or two paychecks. Trying to do so will leave you strapped and playing catch up for months and months.
It might be too late for long term savings this year, but you can set yourself up for a more successful holiday season next year, today. As soon as this holiday season is over, open up a small savings account. Then take your holiday budget and divide it by 26 (assuming that you get paid every two weeks). Deposit that much money into your savings account with each paycheck.
If your budget is 500 dollars for the holidays, deposit 20 bucks from each check. If it is 1000 dollars, deposit 40 dollars. It is much easier to spare 20 to 40 bucks a check each year than it is to come up with a grand all at once.
2. Set A Budget
The last thing that you want to do is freely spend this season. Retailers pull out all the stops this time of year in order to get you to open up that wallet. They need money right now because this is the time of year that most retail stores make their money.
Tale a reasonable budget, that you can afford, and break it up equally. Set a budget for food, gifts and decorations. If you can afford to spend 600 dollars, set aside 100 dollars for a holiday meal, 50 dollars for decorations and 450 dollars for gifts.
Next, list out every person that you have to buy for and set up tiers. Spend more on close family and less on distant relatives and friends. After you set your gift budget, start shopping and stick to it. There are deals to be had and you can always stay on budget if you look around and use your imagination.
3. Take On No New Debt
At just about every store that you go to, you will be asked to apply for a store credit card. Just say no, even if they offer you a discount to do so.
Sure, if you are disciplined you could save a little money by opening an account and then immediately paying it off, but it does not usually work that way. Retailers know that offering a little discount to apply for credit more often than not, result in more spending. Before you know it, your 300 dollar budget has become a 600 dollar charged up store card.
No, just say not to new credit.
4. Be Wary Of Discounts
Not every markdown is a good deal, especially around the holidays. Many products are made for this time a year and are not real values.
You see this a lot around Black Friday. People think that this is the shopping day of shopping days when in fact it is not. Black Friday is not what it used to be. Besides the few “door buster” deals that sell out quickly, most of the stuff that you find is junk or products that can be found just as cheap or cheaper later.
Retailers more and more simply use the mystique of Black Friday to push a lot of stuff that you would not otherwise buy. $5 is a cheap price for a DVD but will you really watch that movie again, probably not. Just because it is cheap does not make it a value.
A far better time to shop these days is Cyber Monday. The sales are just as good, if not better, and you will not be as distracted to go off of your list. Just get your list and pull up your browser and shop for your needs one by one, without straying.
Even better, if you have the forethought, is to shop the entire12 months a year for your gifts. Grab things up as they go on clearance, like just after Christmas, and store them for the next holiday.
5. Stay Within Your Means
Everybody does not have the same means and nobody will fault you for spending 5 dollars on their gift when they spent 10.
Play your own game and do not fall for the pressure to spend like everyone else. Others may make more money than you or they might simply be going into a massive amount of debt this holiday.
Just pay attention to your own finances this year.
6. Shop Early & Often
If you wait until a few days before the holiday to shop, you are guaranteed to overspend. A lot of the great values will be gone and your lack of time will not allow you to price shop.
For the best results, make holiday shopping a year round thing. That allows you to take advantage of the really good clearance sales to maximize your budget.
If shopping year round is not your thing, at least start your Christmas gift shopping just as soon as possible. October is when the retailers really start rolling out the holiday merchandise so it is a good time for most.
The holidays are a great time of year to enjoy family and friends. Just be wary of the retail pressure to spend, spend, spend. In the end most of these gifts just end up on the closet floor, so do not sweat being frugal.
Plan ahead, shop early and stay on budget.