It’s that time of year again. (I know, wasn’t it just March?) If you have been out, you have seen all the holiday decorations in the stores for what feels like months. Your neighbors, or even you, have put up holiday lights and maybe even the tree. While I take a page out of the Byrd’s Song, “There is a time for every season” I know so many are already full on in holiday mode. Whether you share my love for all things Fall until the day after Thanksgiving or you are already watching Christmas specials, I expect that you have already started some of your shopping or at least been thinking of how to tackle it all this year.
According to Bank Rate, the average person spent $998 on holiday gifts and expenses in 2021*, and that is before inflation was creeping up. So, how do you build a fun, meaningful holiday for your family and friends without having to eat Ramen noodles and peanut butter through February or worse, having to pay even higher credit card interest rates until the debt is paid off? Here are some of my best tips for a great holiday to keep spending on track.
Top 10 Tips for A Memorable Holiday Without Blowing the Budget
- Decide how much do you want to spend this holiday season. Look at your income, expenses, debt and decide what is best for you.
- List all of the holiday expenses you need to cover, not just the gifts. One trick my mom taught me was to buy a little extra of all the cleaners, paper products, and the like earlier in the year so you were stocked up by the time the holidays came around. Leave it to a woman with 7 kids to know how to work cash flow effectively.
- Make a budget, leaving a little wiggle room for the unexpected, or for yourself. We all know that we will forget someone when we make the list and that we always find something for ourselves that we just can’t resist because it was such a deal.
- Know your ‘big things’. Spend your hard-earned money in areas that give the biggest bang. If your 6 year old really wants a specific gift and the holidays will be ruined without it, make sure that is top of the list and fill in around it. If your family is not a big ‘gift’ family don’t spend a ton there.
- Use some old-fashioned ingenuity! Create fun, inexpensive holiday traditions. Try your hand at making decorations or gifts if you have a knack for it. Think about giving your time to a charity rather than a cash gift in someone’s name. Teach your kids about the joy of giving back by donating their time, clothes, food or toys.
- Talk to friends and family about the ‘rules’ for gifts. Do a gift exchange so you are buying for one instead of a crowd. Instead of buying your group of friends gifts, you all go out to a holiday event together. Instead of an expensive dinner with a group, host a holiday game night or open house. Make it potluck style and keep things simple and casual. You’ll not just save some money but you will probably connect and enjoy the evening better.
- If you travel during the holidays, shop for a destination you would love to see that may be lesser known or in it’s ‘shoulder season’ where you can get a cheaper rate. Be flexible with your travel time. Just a day or two or sometimes the time of your flight can save hundreds.
- Get Rewarded! There are so many ways that you can get a little something for shopping. Whether it is credit card points, online shopping apps or company rewards. It’s okay to ask about a discount! If you are shopping online, you can sign up for the newsletter before you shop. Many retailers will send you a coupon. You can always unsubscribe later if you are shopping for others.
- Shop shop shop! Compare Uber vs Lyft when you need a ride. Check out apps like Hotels.com or Expedia when looking for a hotel or car. Use shopping apps to see where you can get the best deal.
- Track your spending daily. There are so many ways to spend, by tracking daily you won’t miss anything.
Remember that for most of us, it really is the thought that counts. We want meaningful connections and we want to appreciate our friends and family. If you plan ahead, layout your goals and keep to your plan, not only can you have a great holiday but January and February will be awesome to boot!
Have a great holiday season!
Carolyn Humphrey - Empowered Financial Strategies