Tune in to our next audio seminar 'Dealing with Stress over the Holiday Season' on December 2nd MST! Call now to register!
It is that time of year again. It's time for parties, shopping, spending time with friends and family, shopping, and shopping. All of that shopping can really wreak your budget and leave you literally paying for it for the next year. However, there are some relatively painless ways to control your holiday spending, and even prepare for next year. Use these tips and enjoy your holidays!
1. Make a list and check it twice
There are three really good reasons to have a list. First, it will keep you from forgetting anyone. Second, it is a great feeling to cross people off as you get your shopping done. Third, it allows you to think of reasonable gifts and comparison shop for them. Without a list you are more likely to impulse buy and spend more than you really need to.
2. Stick to your list
Alright, this can be a hard one. For many of us Christmas shopping is a time of "one for you, one for me" bargain hunting. But, by the time you add up all of those bargains you found for yourself, you will have spent possibly hundreds of dollars more then you intended to. In addition, assuming you put plenty of thought in to what to buy everyone when you made your list, think long and hard before you change your mind on an impulse. If you are in the middle of the mall and suddenly see something that makes you realize you forgot someone, take a moment to sit down and add that person to your list and think about what they would really like (and what is reasonable).
3. Make a budget
How much do you have to spend, or how much are you willing to go in to debt and how long will it take you to pay it off? Yes, these are questions you should ask yourself when you are making your list. If you have unlimited funds and money is no object, have at it! Go to Neiman Marcus and spend, spend, spend! However, if you are like most of us, you will also have to pay for a place to live, transportation, and food after December. Honestly and seriously consider what is reasonable for you and then adjust your list accordingly.
4. Take advantage of credit card points for gift certificates for yourself and others
Now is the time to take advantage of some of those credit card points you have been racking up. If you do have a card that allows you to exchange points for gift certificates (either general such as American Express or Visa gift certificates, or specific such as Gap, Toys-R-Us, or Bloomingdales), consider using them now. For example, if you have 70 or 80 thousand points and for 10 thousand points you can get a $100 gift certificate, why not? Check with your credit card company regarding any hidden charges or penalties, but for most people it is a good deal.
5. Comparison Shop online before you buy
It is no longer necessary to drive to 10 different stores to find the best deal. Walmart, Target, Bloomingdales, Macys, Gap, Old Navy, the list is endless of stores with websites. It definitely pays to take a few minutes to look at who is having sales in store and online. If you know what size someone wears or find a perfect gift item while comparison shopping, check for free shipping promotions. If the price is right, it's on your list and the shipping is free (and it's not December 24th), you have just made your shopping life easier.
6. Use coupons
This is a great time of year to find coupons in the newspaper or online. Some online options include:
7. Give time.
Give a coupon book for free babysitting services, car detailing, housekeeping, or errand running to busy people you care about. Just make sure you follow through on your promise when they present the coupon! And offer if they forget to use the coupon. Baking treats is also a great way to give of yourself to your friends. Develop a signature treat that you do really well and they will look forward to it year after year.
8. Skimp elsewhere.
Since you know you will be spending more money than usual this time of year, look for ways to conserve in other areas.
- If you tend to use your credit or debit card for lunches during the week, bring your lunch or force yourself to use cash only for the rest of the year.
- Instead of going out to the movies, rent and stay home.
- Use coupons for pizza and get the less expensive kind with fewer toppings.
- If you just cannot bring yourself to make coffee at home, skip the expensive gourmet coffee shop and get regular coffee at the convenience store with flavored creamer - and use cash!
You will be amazed how all of these little changes add up! And it may just help you with saving more money next year.
9. Keep your receipts.
Not just because someone may need to return something, but to keep track of your spending. Get a shoebox or big manila envelope and drop the receipts in there at the end of each shopping day (don't forget to print the online receipts too!). Ideally, keep a running total at the end of each day (paper clip the one's you've already added up) so that you can keep track of how you are doing. If this seems like too much work for this time of year, wait until after the holidays and then add it all up to help you plan more realistically for what you will need to save for next year.
10. Start planning how you are going to start a holiday savings account for next year.
Remember the old Christmas Club accounts the banks used to have for kids? What a great idea that was! Very few banks encourage that sort of savings today, but there is no reason you can't start one for yourself (and your kids!). Simple steps like:
- Putting a glass jar on your dresser to put your spare change in at the end of each day;
- Use an automatic deduction from your checking account to a savings account each month (you will be surprised how even just $20 or $30 dollars a month can help!);
- Bargain with yourself to put the money you would have spent buying the expensive latte in to the jar - and buy the regular coffee instead;
- Charge yourself a dollar a day and put it in your Holiday Money jar. Think about it; $7 a week adds up to $365 by the end of a year!