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.