10 Tips to Stay On Budget During the Holidays

NEWS // December 2, 2015

10 Tips to Stay On Budget During the Holidays

Ready or not the holiday season is upon us once again. The holidays are still about family and friends coming together to celebrate traditions and the beginning of a new year, but increasingly they are also about flocking to malls and shops to get the best deals.

“Black Friday” has historically been the starting point for the shopping frenzy.  The last few years, however, that start has increasingly crept into Thanksgiving as stores realize they need to be the first ones to grab shoppers' dollars. Remember, while you’re saving big with door busters and early bird specials it’s important to pay attention to personal finances.  Getting great deals may sound cost-effective, but often lead to buying more than expected.

 Here are 10 financial tips to keep in mind during the holiday season:

1.    Budget spending money

Buy gifts for a limited number of people.  Remember there are gifts you can give that are handmade, less expensive and will be more meaningful than a purchased gift.

2.    Consider giving framed photos

This thoughtful gift has almost no impact on your budget. A framed picture of you and the recipient with a note reminding them of when and where you took the picture is a gift that keeps on giving.

3.    Start shopping early with layaway

Layaway is back! Many major retailers offer the service.  With layaway a gift can be set aside for a small deposit and paid for with monthly payments that allow for expenses to be budgeted over the several months leading up to the holidays. If you wish you would have bought some of your gifts ahead of time keep this in mind for next year and start early.

4.    Avoid credit cards

Take only cash when shopping to discourage impulse buys.  A good way to prevent spending a majority of your budget on your initial purchases is to break down your budget per person.  Have an envelope for each person you plan to shop for and place the money you’ve allocated for each individual into their respective envelope.  Once you have spent the money in each envelope, you’re done shopping for that person.  If you feel uncomfortable carrying cash, then use a debit card and create a spread sheet to keep track of your purchases.

5.    Don’t buy yourself gifts

Just because there is a great deal on a gift does not mean you should buy one for yourself.  Holiday shopping can require many trips to the store or visits to your favorite website, so if you start to buy yourself gifts every time you shop you could end up spending more on yourself than everyone on your list.

6.     Shop around

In many ways the holiday shopping season is just as important to retailers as it is to us, so do your homework and shop for the best deals. The stakes are high for retailers since the holiday season accounts for up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.  Visit a number of stores, check sale ads and if you’re comfortable making purchases online, check for deals there, too.

7.   Make it about the kids

One easy way for families to save money this holiday season is to agree to pass on buying gifts for adults. Make the gift giving exclusively about the kids and everyone saves money.

8.   Have a Secret Santa gift exchange

If you have a large family with many kids to shop for then consider organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange. Buying gifts for fewer people will make shopping much easier and is friendly on the budget.  For example, on Thanksgiving have each child select one of their cousins’ names from a hat, then have the parents be responsible only for the niece or nephew their child has selected. Remember to set a reasonable spending limit for each gift. 

9.    Give family heirlooms and memorabilia as gifts

Some of these items are valuable and can be a great reminder of our past.  Jewelry, art and antiques are just some of the possible items that you can pass along.

10.  Avoid getting caught up in the excitement

With crowds and deals all around you there will be a lot of temptation.  After all, it can feel rewarding to know that you secured a deal that sold out in seconds. Taking advantage of deals that are available for a very limited time can increase the likelihood that you will make a purchase that will have an adverse effect on your personal finances well into the New Year.  Be aware of your budget and avoid the frenzy.

Of course, don’t forget that your family and friends love you for you, not for what you can buy them. 

Article provided by the San Diego Financial Literacy Center.