With the holidays right around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about travel plans, gift ideas, hosting arrangements, and charitable giving. While this may be the best time of year in the eyes of many, it can also be the worst time of year on our budgets if we aren’t careful.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales in the United States in 2017 are expected to trump $4 million. And that doesn’t take into account the other expenses related to the holiday season, such as accommodations, travel expenses, donations, and more.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make your holiday season more affordable. Here are 10 tips to protect your finances during this season.
1) Make a List of Who You Need Gifts For
Obviously, a large portion of holiday expenses are due to gift giving. While it is the season of giving, it is easy for gift expenses to get out of control if you aren’t careful.
The best way to prevent holiday overspending on gifts is to go in with a plan. If you haven’t already, decide who exactly you need to get gifts for. Instead of thinking of each person individually, think of how much you want to spend per group as a whole. It might be helpful to sort individuals into each of the following categories:
Since family members are more likely to give and get larger, more significant gifts, they will take the largest portion of your gift budget
Acquaintances, such as coworkers or other people within your network, might account for a large quantity of your gifts, but they typically will be smaller gifts than what you might give your family members.
- Service Providers
You may decide to give a small gift to your service providers, such as your mailman or garbage man.
The holiday season provides ample opportunities for charitable giving. Plan in advance who you will give to and how much.
By splitting up your gift groups, you will be better able to see what you can realistically budget for each individual. Plus, it eliminates the stress of having to scramble to find a last-minute gift for someone you may have forgotten.
2) Consider Travel Hacking
This is the perfect time to start travel hacking. If you have credit card points sacked away, now is a great time to put them to use. Travel hacking can help you save hundreds, if not thousands, on your trip if done right.
3) Utilize Credit Card Points
If you are a credit card user, take advantage of the point system your credit card company sponsors by charging holiday gifts. Keep in mind, if you currently have credit card debt or a poor credit score, charging spending on your credit card will only hurt you, not help you. But for anyone who has a solid credit score, holiday spending can be a great opportunity to earn more points.
4) Take On Seasonal Work
During the holidays, many companies are offering seasonal work due to the high demand, especially in the retail sector. This is the perfect opportunity to take on a few additional hours of work and earn some extra cash.
The holidays might be a busy time for you, but by making time to side hustle, you can potentially pay for all of your holiday spending just through your extra income.
5) Buy Décor Post-Holiday
Creating a festive dwelling can be fun, but also expensive. Holiday decor is rarely on sale pre-season and may cost you hundreds.
Instead of going out to purchase new decor, utilize what you already have from previous years. After the holiday, then go to purchase items for a steep discount and use next year.
6) Host Gift Exchanges
Instead of getting gifts for everyone on your list, work to organize a gift exchange with your friends or family. This way, you only have to buy one gift and everyone leaves with something.
Gift exchanges take some major stress out of the holiday season because you aren’t having to find the perfect gift for everyone or blow your budget.
7) Go Potluck Style with Hosting
While it is gracious to host, it certainly isn’t cheap. Between finding the perfect décor, planning and cooking all of the food, and making sure the house is clean and everyone has their travel arrangements planned, it can be downright stressful.
Instead of feeling like you have to cook everything yourself as a host or hostess, ask your friends and family to bring their own favorite dish to share. Not only does it make your holiday easier and cheaper, but it can help to ease some of the stress of planning. Plus, everyone likes to be able to contribute.
8) Set a Budget and Stick to It
Many people simply accept the fact that they will go over-budget during the holiday season but don’t do anything to try to prevent it. Many of these people might not even realize how over-budget they were until they receive the bill in the mail in January after all the spending they did during the holidays.
To prevent going over-budget, there are two things you should do. One is to create a realistic budget. By following some of the above steps, you should better be able to budget out how much every aspect of your holiday season will cost.
The second key is to actually stick to your budget. All too often, we create budgets but do not hold ourselves accountable. This is a dangerous route to take with not only holiday spending, but day-to-day spending as well. By creating a realistic budget that you can stick to, you will eliminate any surprises and ensure that you can exit the holiday season without any new debt.
9) Make Your Own Gifts
If you are crafty, you can make your own gifts for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new gift. Whether you sew, knit, paint, or build, a homemade gift is always appreciated by the recipient.
Even if you aren’t crafty, consider offering up a service that you can provide for free. For instance, one year I offered to organize my parent’s attic for them. This was a task they had been putting off and they appreciated it more than I ever imagined they would.
10) Or, Forgo Gifts Entirely
While it may be called the season of giving, the holidays are mostly about spending time with the ones you love and giving to those less fortunate. Maybe you and your family or friends talk about it and decide to forgo gifts altogether!
If you don’t feel as though you can forgo gifts entirely, talk with your family to see if you can drastically cut your giving. Chances are other people in your family feel the same as you and have other financial priorities, and that is okay. Honest communication can change traditions so that no one feels shorted or left out.
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How do you save money during the holiday season? What expenses do you struggle the most with during this time of year?