The holidays are upon us, and it’s a time when we look to create memories and traditions for our children, loved ones, and friends. Sometimes these events and plans can get costly. One way to approach your holiday spending this year is to help reduce impulse purchases. Ask yourself, “Will this purchase meet one of my goals? Do I need or want it? Would I come back tomorrow to buy this?” Here are some other tips and strategies:
First, track expenses to prevent spending excessive money on wants. We may forget that a wish or want, such as buying a $3 pack of gum or a $10 magazine on impulse at the checkout stand, may prevent us from being able to pay for basic needs. This often happens during the holidays; we rationalize that “this would look awesome in my living room,” “nobody has it,” or “It’s the latest or most unique; I have to have it.”
To avoid this rationale and make wiser dollar decisions, we need to understand the difference between a need and a want. Those items classified as “needs” (such as rent) help us survive. The cost of whatever that need is can’t be avoided, and it typically falls into one of five spending categories – food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, or transportation.
On the other hand, there are many different wants. Typically, “wants” are those things that make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable; they’re far more numerous than needs and vary from person to person.
Second, to prevent falling short on your bills like rent or utilities, record your expenses and consider and include what else you’ll need to spend in the coming months. Will you be planning this year’s holiday festivities at your home or traveling to visit family or friends? Calculate what those things will total up to.
Next, subtract any expenses from your usual budget and think about how much you have to spend on gifts. Plan as early as possible and estimate how much you can save to cover your holiday wish list. Be realistic about your budget so that you won’t overspend.
Use a Money Management Calendar, phone application, spreadsheet budget chart, envelope system, or notebook to help keep track.
The third is to make a list – it’s easy to get carried away during the holidays, and last-minute shopping can trigger mindless shopping. Instead, start a list of the gifts you’ll need, the different stores that carry them, and their pricing. Compare several stores and re-check your pricing.
Remember, fight the temptation; if something is on sale but not on your list, don’t just buy it. Practice conscious spending and decide with your plan at hand.
Fourth, consider some homemade options
- Homemade mixes in a mason jar, such as hot chocolate, bean soup, or cookie mixes.
- Your favorite recipes with photos in a custom picture book.
Fifth, decide how you will pay. Will you be using cash or credit cards to pay for gifts? You can accomplish this by bringing only the money you plan to spend. This will help you stay on track and budget. One rule of thumb – you’re done once you spend the money you brought. (consumerfinance.gov)
- Another approach is to consider one gift per family member and even split the cost of the gifts by agreeing on the amount.
- Increase your cash flow by hosting a garage sale and use those funds for your holiday spending.
- Alternative gifts, such as volunteering or handmade goods, are other ways to save money during the holiday season.
Sixth, consider reducing costs in other areas.
- Check out new quotes for home and car insurance coverage discounts and get a better rate/ company.
- Cancel subscriptions and gym memberships you no longer use.
- Discontinue cable or streaming services.
If you currently have a lot of credit card debt and can’t pay on time, try tips from:
If you can’t pay your credit card bill, it’s important that you act right away. Contact your credit card company immediately because many creditors may be willing to work with you to change your payment if you’re facing a financial emergency.
Finally, don’t forget to check and re-check your budget. Be kind to yourself, forgive any past financial mistakes, and start over. You can do it!