8 Smart Tips for Budgeting for Holiday Expenses

iStock
iStock

Unsure how much you spent during the last holiday season? If you don’t know definitively, there’s a good chance it was more than you bargained for. In fact, according to national polls, consumers spend an average of $750 on holiday gifts and entertainment each year. How do you budget for such a big one-time expense? Our good tidings to you are surefire tips to keep your celebratory spending in check.

1. BUDGET TIME JUST AS YOU DO MONEY.

It goes without saying that creating a spending budget is a key way to stay on top of your personal finances, but also scheduling when you plan to shop—and setting reasonable deadlines—will keep you on target. After all, the longer you wait, the higher the prices will rise and the more desperate you’ll be to buy products at a premium because you’re running out of time.

2. KEEP A RAINY DAY FUND.

It’s common financial sense to have an emergency fund for the unexpected, whether it’s a job layoff, a car repair, or a sudden medical procedure, but it’s also wise to have some funds tucked away for expected, but no less expensive, costs. When moving money into a savings account every month, consider also tucking additional cash away in an easily accessible account for annual birthdays and holidays.

3. CLEAR YOUR CACHE WHEN SEARCHING FOR FLIGHTS.

There are easily thousands of tips for scoring a cheap flight, but unless you want to wake up at 2:32 a.m. on a Tuesday, consider simply erasing your browser history before researching airfare. Many airlines track how many times you visit their sites, and in doing so, provide different offers and deals. The more they see you searching, the higher they’ll raise the prices.

4. CUT THE BOOZE.

It’s a lot less fun, sure, but consuming alcoholic beverages at restaurants and bars is a costly expense in general, never mind during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Not convinced? Consider this: By abstaining from just two glasses of wine or fancy cocktails, you’ll be able to afford one more substantial gift for a friend or loved one.

5. SET YOUR OWN PURCHASING WAITING PERIODS.

Instant gratification is one of the trickiest urges to overcome when trying to stay on budget. Just because it’s easy to find what you are looking for and order it right away doesn’t mean you should. Instead, mandate a waiting period for the bigger purchases on your list or at least double-check return policies.

6. APPLY THE SAME RULES TO YOUR GROCERY LIST.

Holiday spending isn’t just about gifts and decorations—it’s also about entertaining, and those costs add up just as quickly. If you’re baking or cooking for a family gathering, do your best to clip coupons or find other ways to save money on foods and beverages.

7. USE A CASH-BACK CREDIT CARD.

Although the benefits of a rewards card won’t benefit you immediately, it behooves you to shop with one. As long as you’re smart about paying off the balance so you aren’t faced with interest charges, you could save anywhere from 1 to 5 percent on each purchase in the form of either a rebate or a statement credit.

8. PAY WITH CASH.

If, however, you have a history of credit card debt, consider instilling a cash-only policy for all holiday expenses. When it comes time to shop, label envelopes with the name of the gift recipient and put the appropriate amount in each one. That way, there’s no possibility of going over your maximum, even by a few cents.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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See What the World’s Reading Habits Look Like in 2020

Christin Hume, Unsplash
Christin Hume, Unsplash

When most of the world went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found themselves with a lot of extra free time. Some people used that time to bake bread, make crafts, or play video games. For the bibliophiles of the world, quarantine was the perfect chance to burn through their pile of books to read. This infographic shows how reading habits changed across the globe in 2020.

The editing and proofreading service Global English Editing gathered these statistics from various sources, including Pew Research and Amazon's bestsellers page. It found 35 percent of web users worldwide reported reading more during the pandemic, and 14 percent said they read significantly more. This trend was most dramatic in China, where 44 percent of respondents said they increased their reading time due to the coronavirus.

This uptick became apparent in March 2020, when many countries implemented coronavirus lockdowns for the first time. There were 1.51 billion visits to book and literature e-commerce sites that month—an 8.5 percent increase from the month before. As for what books people are reading, apocalyptic fiction like Stephen King's The Stand has been popular in the age of COVID-19.

For a full snapshot of the world's reading habits at this point in history, check out the infographic below.