You’ve most likely been there before: you’re shopping in the mall (or online) with your gift list in hand when an unplanned item captures your attention. “This would be perfect for Aunt Mary,” you say to yourself… but the item is not on your list. You silently argue with your conscience, rationalize that “it’s the holidays,” and give in to your unintended expense. Unfortunately, it may be the first step toward the collapse of your holiday spending budget.
So, what are you supposed to do? With so many people depending on you for the perfect holiday gift, how can you stop yourself from overspending? Here are some tips to help get you through the holidays and possibly have some money left over to give yourself a gift…
6 Budget Protection Tips for Holiday Spending
Budget = Disposable Income.
The budget you create for your holiday shopping should come from your disposable income. If you spend more than that amount, you could have a large credit card bill in 2018. Try to figure out your budget before you start shopping – it could save you a lot of heartache down the line.
Check your list. Twice.
Surprise purchases (like the gift for Aunt Mary) are the most common obstacles to keeping a budget on track. Find the easiest way for you to maintain a list and keep it handy at all times. Keep track of the dollar amount for:
- gifts you have to buy for friends, family and co-workers
- food and drink you’ll be purchasing for holiday festivities
- travel-related expenses including airfare, hotels, transit, etc.
- any other potential holiday expense.
Once that list is made, check it again.
The early bird catches the sale.
Start shopping early. Although there are some good sales during the holiday months, there’s also a lot of rushing, crowds and pressure you have to contend with. Sales happen all year long, so if possible, start preparing a list in January. This way, if you see a sale item in March that someone on your list might like, you’ll be way ahead of the game.
Track as you spend.
When trying not to overspend during the holidays, it’s probably best to use cash when shopping at stores. Put the money in an envelope and as soon as the envelope is empty, stop shopping. Easier said than done… we know. So, if credit cards are a must, check how much you’ve spent at the end of each day. Make sure to have a reminder of your maximum budget amount close at hand so you’ll know how close you’re to reaching your limit.
A post-holiday budget tune-up.
Although January is the time when we’re typically recuperating from the holidays, it’s good to keep in that the next holiday season is just eleven months away. Why not rework your monthly budget to incorporate “holiday shopping” savings? Free up some of your budget by eating out less, making coffee instead of buying it, and getting rid of some of those cable channels you don’t watch. Then take some of those savings and put them in a holiday shopping fund so when the time comes, you can give gifts to people without going into debt.
Quality, not Quantity.
It’s not how much you spend or how many gifts you give someone, it’s the thought and how much the recipient will use that gift that really matters. For instance, do you have a relative who wants to eat healthier but doesn’t have time to find recipes? Collect healthy dining recipes online and use the printed versions to create a small bounded “book” at the print service center. It’s a lot less expensive (and will probably be used more often) than a fancy vase.
While you’re in the holiday spirit, also think about what your New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 can be. Is creating a budget is one of them?