“It’s the most wonderful time of year…!” So begins the lyrics to one of the most iconic songs of the holiday season. And while we wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, if you’re not financially prepared, the holidays can feel a lot more like “Bad Times at the El Royale”. The good news is, it’s not too late to get your holiday spending in order.
Here are 8 tips to help you prepare for what can often become the most expensive time of the year.
- Set a limit on what you want to spend for the season. Don’t put yourself in a pinch at Christmas or the months following the holiday. Determine how much you have available to spend and make your list to fit your budget. Try to avoid putting gifts on your credit card with plans to deal with it down the road.
- Make a list and stick to it. If it’s not on your list DON’T buy it. This includes unplanned spending on yourself, which can be difficult when retailers run enticing sales during the holiday season. When making your list, include who you are buying for and how much you plan to spend on that person. Make sure you add up all those amounts to ensure the total fits within your planned budget.
- Track your spending. Surprises can be fun, but not when it comes to your checking account or credit card bills. Mobile banking is a great way to see what you have spent, even as you’re walking from store to store.
- Shipping is a real expense and should be factored into the budget. Remember shipping and delivery charges-- they can add up! If you plan to spend $30.00 on a gift and delivery is $8.00, be sure to adjust the amount you spend on the actual purchase accordingly.
- Price check. These days, price check is at your fingertips. Use your phone or computer to check around for the best price or for a coupon. You might surprise yourself with how much you save!
- Consider making gifts. The best gifts come from the heart. Homemade gifts are a great way to save money while creating something memorable. Home baked items are always welcome, as well as family photos to relatives.
- Take travel and holiday parties into account. Remember that holiday spending includes more than just gifts; don’t forget to factor in the extra expenses for food, parties and holiday travel.
- Don’t procrastinate. In a perfect world, you’ve been diligently planning for your holiday spending all year, but if that’s not the case, start planning now. And, while you’re at it, get a jump on things and start setting next year’s budget as well. Put money aside monthly for gifts. You can keep this money in a savings account and have transfers made automatically through Online Banking. (Next Year You will be so glad you didn’t wait!)
To wrap things up, (Oh yeah! Don’t forget to budget for wrapping paper and bags!), Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. With proper planning, your holiday can be merry while still avoiding financial strain on your budget.
Sheila S. Klaassen
Vice President Ag Banking