I just love this time of year; it is full of joy, cheer, and celebration. It's a time to eat all the treats we want without gaining a pound because calories don't count on holidays, right? And it's a time to buy all the gifts we want for all the people we love because money grows on trees during the holidays, right? Well, just like your doctor will set you straight with respect to that first misconception, it's my job to set you straight with respect to the second one.
Although you wouldn't know it from the way many people spend money around the holidays, many of us feel the weight of those gifts when we look at our bank and credit card statements in January. When the bills come, the first thought is often, what? followed quickly by, How? Well, let me tell you how a lack of vigilance during the purchasing season. And although the holidays can be fun and joyful, if you start the New Year in debt, well, that joy quickly turns into stress.
Luckily, there are a few ways to capture the holiday spirit during this last week, without worrying about it haunting your financials in the coming weeks.
#1 - Make A Budget
Hopefully, you have already looked at your monthly budget and calculated your disposable income to determine how much you can afford to spend on presents. If not, do this right away, and don't forget that you will likely incur additional expenses for things other than gifts, like travel, extra food and drinks, and holiday clothes.
Next, subtract from that total the amount of money you have already spent on holiday gifts and expenses. Then apply what remains of your discretionary budget to those who are still on your list of people to buy for. If you have $150 left, then divide $150 among the people remaining on your list, in whatever way you feel appropriate.
#2 - Set Per Person Dollar Limits
If it's not too late, put dollar limits on gifts between you and certain people. Maybe you and your sisters can decide to spend no more than $10 on gifts for each other. Or you and your spouse need to spend less than the number of years you've been married. Not only does this save on the wallet, but it can be a fun way to be more creative with gifts.
#3 - Avoid Impulse Purchases
It is always best to plan ahead in ways that I've mentioned, but we are in the home stretch, and we all know that feeling when we get into the 10th store of the day or the 15th website, and time is running short. It is very tempting to just bust the budget and get whatever is quickest and easiest. Do not cave! Especially to your kids or grandkids!
Some ways to avoid the purchasing pressure is to limit yourself by only using cash, and not bringing your credit cards with you when you shop. That will keep you within whatever budget you had planned. Also, give yourself time. Don't let the stress and rush of holiday shopping blur the lines of your price limit. Try to take advantage of what's left of the holiday season, shopping at specific stores for specific items, rather than just strolling the mall for hours hoping that something will jump out at you.
Tip: If you have trouble saying no, or just love that one-click purchase button, do yourself a favor. Buy a gift card with your holiday budget and only use that for purchases. This way you won't be able to go over your limit and you might be a bit more conscious about your purchase.
#4 - Price Check
Price check at different sites to make sure you are getting the best deal. If you can purchase multiple items from one site to take advantage of any free shipping or sale offers, try to do so. Again, if you wait too long, you will find yourself having to pay a surplus charge to rush the shipping, so make sure you shop online sooner rather than later.
Your holiday season should be about celebration. What's even better than enjoying the celebration? Avoiding the financial hangover that usually follows.
P.S. If you haven't already claimed your free holiday gift, go download the latest copy of my Amazon Best-selling book "Living with Financial Anxiety"