Black Friday has come and gone, leaving us in the middle of the prime holiday shopping season. Studies show that consumers will spend an average of $749.51 on gifts, decorations and other holiday items this year¹. Are you prepared? The following pre-holiday shopping tips can help to keep you out of debt, reduce stress, and ensure a merrier holiday season.
Create a budget.
If you already have a monthly budget, then you have an idea of what you can afford to spend. If not, you can easily create a budget by subtracting your monthly bills such as rent or mortgage payments, car payments, utilities, etc. from your monthly income. The remainder of your income gives you an idea of your holiday budget, plus any money that you had stored away throughout the year. Why stop there! This is a great opportunity to initiate a budget for next year, setting aside money each month for holiday spending. Another idea for budgeting money: if you are paid every other week, create a monthly budget based on two paychecks. This will leave two months out of the year with three paychecks! Put these “extra” paychecks away for savings or retirement, or save them for special events such as the holidays or family trips and large purchases.
Make a list and check it twice.
This statement is relevant for the holidays in more ways than one! Make a list of all the people you need or want to give a gift to, including family, friends, co workers, etc. Write down an estimate of what you plan to spend on each person, also including money that you plan to spend on holiday wrappings, decorations and holiday food and parties, and then add it up. How does this compare to your budgeted amount? Rework your list, spending less on things that you don’t really need, until your list number matches your budget number. Now stick to the list!
Look for holiday deals and be creative.
Holiday sales are everywhere. Do your research and shop around for that perfect gift at the best price. Also, remember that the perfect gift is not always sold in stores; putting together a gift basket of goodies or making something by hand demonstrates that it truly is the thought that matters! Pinterest.com is a great place to find creative holiday gift and goodie ideas.
Track your spending.
Most experts advise to pay with cash to help prevent you from over spending. Whether you use cash or plastic, keep your receipts and track what you spend. If you do use a credit card for holiday purchases, sticking to your list will ensure that you have the cash to pay the credit card bill entirely, avoiding high interest rates while possibly earning cash back points on certain types of cards.
¹Survey conducted by BIGinsight, for the National Retail Foundation. www.reuters.com