Top 8 Tips for a Practical Holiday Budget
by Lauren Podolsky, StageofLife.com Financial Literacy
With the holiday season in full swing, the mad dash to fit everything in this month can make you blow your holiday budget. With a long list of people to buy for, and stores filling your head with the latest and greatest products, it may be tempting to tap into your savings in order to spread the cheer. But without a plan, your holiday shopping can quickly break the bank. Here are a few simple strategies to ensure that your bank account stays merry and bright.
Here's our favorite holiday budgeting tips...
1) Make a list of the people you truly want to buy for
Before creating a budget, create a list of who you are buying gifts for this year. Without having a concrete list of our gift list, we often end up spending excess money buying for those we don’t really need or want to buy for. Consider the big picture. Even if you find the perfect gift for that distant relative that you rarely see or talk to, it doesn’t mean that tapping into your wallet will deepen family bonds or friendships.
2) Decide how much to spend on each person
Now that you have your list of who you are buying for this year, the next step is to decide how much you would like to spend on each person. Have a goal number in mind for each person on your list and try your best to stick within $5-$10 of that amount.
3) Use cash
Once you have your holiday gift list and budget established, plan to withdraw the exact amount of cash you vow to spend on the same day you vow to spend it. This way, using only cash will keep you from spending more than you planned for and avoids going into any unwanted holiday debt.
4) Shop online
There is an exception to the “use cash” rule when it comes to online purchases. Many websites like Amazon and eBay offer savings that simple cannot be found in retail stores. Try to batch the online purchases together so that they can all be done at the same time and forgotten about thereafter.
5) Space out your shopping
The good thing about this time of year is that retailers will offer some of the best savings on certain items. Yes, you can certainly find good deals but it’s important to shop smart. Most retailers will hold sales in various product categories in the weeks leading up to Christmas. One week might produce great deals on electronics, the next might have a huge sale on clothing, and the week before might be ideal for toys. Keep your eye on sales fliers and decide to tackle your holiday shopping by categories on days when they are least expensive.
6) Ask About Discounts
Many people don’t realize that they are eligible for additional discounts with many retailers. Students, for instance, can get discounts on laptop computers and sometimes even furniture. Make sure you ask each retailer if they offer any further promotions or discounts other than what is advertised.
And don't forget that StageofLife.com lines up shopping discounts and coupons directly with dozens of national merchants in our free My Life Rewards program®. Check out those deals and discounts.
7) Consider homemade gifts
Maybe you have a special hobby or skill that your friends and family would appreciate wrapped up. Can you knit, bake, make jewelry, have a keen sense of music, draw, paint, or just put together a fun and unique craft? There are hundreds of DIY Christmas gift ideas on the internet and some that require very little money and time.
8) Don’t wait
Even though it’s a good idea to buy gifts when they’re on sale, don’t use this as an excuse to procrastinate. If you wait until the last minutes, you’ll only add stress and anxiety to your to-do list and you may find yourself competing with other last minute shoppers for less than desirable gifts. Formulate a plan of attack and execute it on your schedule, not on the retailer’s.
If you have other tips we should add to this list, or any questions or comments, please Contact Us
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About Lauren Podolsky: With over 10 years as a blogger and Financial Literacy adviser, Lauren lends her money tips and financial Q&A insights here on Stage of Life each and every month. For more healthy tips, recipes and advice, check out Lauren's personal site at www.saywhatyouneedtosayblog.com where she shares her love of food, staying fit and living a healthy and balanced life.