The sun is shining and you are headed to a summer barbeque or maybe the pool. Why on earth would you want to start thinking about the chilly winter holidays now? Planning early by setting a budget, saving enough to cover it, and purchasing items now, when they are on sale, can help you to keep the holidays merry by avoiding financial woes.
Make a budget
- Make a list of all the gifts you will need to buy (including hostess, teacher, co-worker, and year-end tips) and include the dollar amount that you are planning to spend on each gift.
- Calculate the approximate amount you will need to spend on holiday travel including airfare, hotel, rental car, gas, etc.
- Estimate the amount you might spend on holiday parties and dinners. Consider extra food costs if you are hosting any holiday meals.
- Finally, calculate a holiday fun budget to cover holiday activities such as theater tickets, concerts, movies, recreational activities, etc. that you will want to attend but, cost extra.
- Note: Do your best to calculate all of your expenses knowing that there will always be a few surprises. You might end up spending a little extra on plane tickets to avoid a 5:30 AM flight but, you might score a great deal on a gift for your mom that is under the amount you had budgeted to spend.
Create a Savings Plan
- Once you have your budget worked out you can create a savings plan. Remember, you do not need to have all of the money now since many of the expenses will not come for a few months.
- If you have additional cash now, consider setting it aside so you will not be tempted to spend it.
- If you do not have extra funds now or do not have enough to cover all of your holiday expenses, calculate how much you will need to set aside each paycheck to reach your savings goal by the holidays. Remember, the holiday season is long and your expenses will trickle in over the period of a few months but, there are some expenses that might come up early such as purchasing gifts that are on sale or booking travel early to avoid the price increases that come as the holidays get closer.
- Consider setting up a Savings Account just for your holiday budget so you can keep it separate from your emergency fund or other savings. (Consider looking for an account at an online bank. They often have low minimum balance requirements and offer higher than average interest rates).
- Set an automatic transfer so the money will immediately go from your Checking Account to your savings so you will not be tempted to spend it now.
Set up Price Alerts
- If you know some of the things that you will need to buy, you can sign up for mailing lists or set price alerts so you will know when sales hit.
- Flight Alerts can help you find the best price on a ticket to your holiday destination. Set it up and be notified when the fare drops.
- Price Alerts can also be set for hotels which can save you a lot of money on the hotel you were planning to book anyway.
- When it comes to buying gifts, buying online can save you a lot if you just take a little time to research. There are several deal-tracking sites that will help you to find the best price on a specific item. If you know what item you want but do not see a great deal today, many of these sites will allow you to set a deal alert to notify you when the item goes on sale.
- If you have favorite stores, you can join their mailing lists and be notified of all sales. When the item you need goes on sale, you can purchase it at a discount.
- Note: Before giving out your personal information verify that it is a reputable site. Saving a few bucks is not worth it if you will be bombarded by unnecessary spam, or worse, if you put yourself at risk for identity theft.
Shop Early and Save
- The holidays might be months away but, jewelry is often on sale in July. Now might be a good time to snag a discount on those earrings you want to buy for your mom.
- If your daughter will be asking for a new bike, you may want to consider looking in September when you can get the best deals on new bikes.
- Different times of year offer different savings and there are sales at any given time of year. As long as you can buy those holiday gifts with money you have already set aside, there is no reason to wait for Black Friday to buy them (just make sure you have a good hiding spot).
- Buying a few things at a time can also help with budgeting and debt. It is a lot easier to cover the cost of a few gifts per month than dozens of gifts in November and December.
Avoid unnecessary Spending
- It is great to get a jump on your shopping and even better to snag a great deal but, it is best to avoid buying too much too soon and then regretting the purchase.
- Do not buy in bulk unless you have a need for all of the items. Sure you can save a lot by buying 24 of those adorable cookie tins but do you really have 24 people to give them to?
- Buying that bike for your daughter might seem like a great idea until her grandparents buy her one for her birthday in October. If your gifts might be duplicated by other family and friends it is a good idea to coordinate so you don’t double up.
- Be fully aware of the return policy. Buying a gift that you are not 100% sure about is fine as long as you know that you or the receiver will be able to return or exchange it.
- Avoid the temptation to stock up on unwanted items for yourself. It is hard to resist a good deal on something that you really want. If you don’t really need it and can’t really afford it, it is best not to purchase it. Consider adding it to your wish list.
- Look for creative ways to reduce the cost of items you know you will want or need.
- If you know you need some new decorations, consider shopping summer garage sales, flea markets, or secondhand stores to find what you need at a fraction of the retail cost.
- If you have a group of friends and family who always attend a holiday play or concert together, consider contacting the box office to see if you can get a group discount. Your friends and family will thank you for helping their budget too (just make sure you get payment up front so you don’t get stuck covering the cost of extra tickets for those who cancel or do not pay).
- Websites like Craigslist and Nextdoor often have new or near new items that are for sale at deep discounts. No one will ever know you bought that brand new mixer from your neighbor who received it as a wedding present but never used it. Protect yourself while shopping from these sites and check out these tips for avoiding scams. https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/save-money/stay-safe-buying-on-craigslist/
- If you start early, you may have time to make gifts. If you are crafty and creative you might be able to make a high-quality one-of-a-kind gift that will be cherished and appreciated for years to come.
- Borrow items that you will only need once from friends, family, or neighbors. No need to buy a punch bowl for your party if your mom already has one. Invited more guests to your Thanksgiving dinner than you have plates? Ask one of the guests if you can borrow a few extra place settings. The table will be more colorful and creative if there are a variety of china patterns.
A Little Leftover
- Hopefully, all of your hard work pays off and you have a little left over at the end of the holiday season.
- If your Savings Account has a good interest rate you can keep the money growing by leaving it in the account and start saving for next year or another savings goal.
- You could take the additional funds and shop the after holiday sales to stock up on seasonal items at a deep discount.
- If there was something on your wish list that you didn’t get, you could buy it for yourself as a reward for your frugal holiday season.
Planning for the holidays is stressful. By spreading the expense over the next several months you can help yourself stay relaxed and within budget. It really is not as hard as it might seem and will not take much time but, hopefully, it will lead to the best holiday season you have ever had.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
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