The holidays can wreak havoc on your budget. Here are 5 budget-friendly holiday tips that will help keep you focused, on track and help you stay within your budget.
Plan ahead: Start your major holiday gifting and food preparation several weeks in advance – or if you’re already within this window of time, begin today. Waiting only increases your stress levels, limits the availability of what you would really like to do, and puts a bigger strain on your budget. Save your holiday funds in advance, in small amounts if necessary – and consider opening a special account for next year’s celebrations to get ahead of the curve going forward. Know that you always have the legitimate option to decline last minute pressures to spend more time and/or money beyond your plans.
Outline your budget: Figure out a total number that you can comfortably spend within your
current income (gifts, food, and events) to keep you from adding debt that will carry into the new year. Use a written list to prevent overspending problems or inadvertently forgetting an important name or event. To help yourself further, allocate an approximate amount for each person you wish to provide a gift. If the cost of one gift is more than you originally thought, then make a notation that other items will have to be less by that amount. If you save a few dollars instead, then you have a bit more to allocate to subsequent purchases. This way you’ll always know where you are in your spending comfort zone.
Personalize gifts: Many people are realizing that they already have a lot of ‘stuff’ in their homes that they do not use, so consider buying actual items only if the recipients have expressed a specific interest (i.e., a new hobby, work-related needs, replacing a favorite worn piece, etc.) Gift certificates toward a special service, arranging a joint personal outing, and mutual savings to go toward a trip/visit are popular and very meaningful ideas. Combining your budget with that of other family members for larger scale presents can also give you more ‘bang for your buck’. For next season, think about possible gifts at summer/fall craft fairs and special retail sales throughout the year.
Watch mailing costs: Postage for cards and mailing packages can really add up quickly and put an unexpected dent in your budget. When possible, have gifts mailed directly to the recipient from online orders (particularly if there is an offer of free or discounted shipping), or plan to send your gifts a few weeks early to take advantage of lower rates for economy shipping. Consider using eCards or postcards for your holiday wishes instead of full-size paper options.
Keep yourself healthy and balanced: The greatest gift you can give to family and friends at any time of year is that of your own happy, relaxed, active self. Choose those events and activities that really mean a lot to you personally, and take a pass on other hyped cultural expectations. Your partners, spouses, children, pets, neighbors, and colleagues will most value the great experiences that come when you take care of yourself (physically and financially) and show up with a truly present personal energy to celebration times.
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