“American consumers plan to spend an average $935.58 during the holiday shopping season this year…”- National Retail Federation (2016)
The Christmas holiday is one of the biggest budget busters in the year. More purchases are done on credit than any other time, and “at 20 – 25% interest, a few thousand dollars in holiday debt can haunt you until Halloween” (incharge.org). This is why it is so important to come up with a holiday spending game plan. If you plan to shop during this holiday season, follow these simple steps to create your plan.
Originally posted: 11/9/2016
Tip #1: Look at how much you spent last year. Did you find yourself still paying for it in 2017? Does your current budget support that amount? Think about your purchases last year, and determine if the amount you spent was worth it. Did you spend money that you didn’t have on people you didn’t need to?
Key takeaway: Really look at your spending activity from last year to see if it makes sense for this year’s goals.
Tip #2: Write down everything you think you may spend money on. Write down EVERYTHING! This includes gifts, pictures, outfits, parties, etc. Next to each item, write down an amount you plan to spend. Then total it up. You’ll also want to list everyone you plan to buy a gift for, and write down how much you plan to spend on each person. Total that up.
Key takeaway: Create a real amount to work with based on what you think you may spend.
Tip #3: Be realistic. After you have your planned totals, divide the amounts by how many pay periods you have until Christmas. This will give you the amount you need to set aside each time you get paid for holiday expenses. If the amount is more than you can afford, you have two options: reduce the amount you plan to spend or find additional money. If you chose the latter, here a few ideas for getting the extra money:
- Get a temporary, seasonal job.
- Sell some of your items online or at a yard sale.
- Cut down on some of your other expenses and apply the difference towards your holiday fund.
Either way, using a credit card is not an option! If you can’t find the money now, how will you find it when it’s time to pay back the credit cards? Be realistic with what you can afford to spend this year, and adjust accordingly!
Key Takeaway: Be realistic with what you can afford to spend this year, and adjust accordingly!
Tip #4: Make temporary sacrifices. In order to cash flow Christmas, you may be required to make temporary sacrifices. This may mean eating in instead of eating out, and saving the difference. You may have to do a couple of “no spend” days, and save the difference. You might have to sacrifice your time by getting a second job. Either way, if you don’t want to pay for Christmas in 2018, you have to be willing to make a few sacrifices. Decide now what those are going to be.
Key Takeaway: Cash flowing Christmas isn’t easy, but your 2018 goals will thank you!
Tip #5: Shop early. Once you have a breakdown of how much you are going to spend during each pay period, start shopping. The earlier you shop, the less likely you are to make impulse purchases. Go into the store with your cash, and an idea of what you’re going to buy. Early shopping also allows you to avoid long lines and crowds, which can often result in impulse purchases as well.
Key Takeaway: Shopping early reduces impulse purchases.
Tip #6: Use coupons. This is probably a given, but part of your holiday game plan needs to include using coupon codes and shopping deals. You should already have your budgeted amount, so now you need to seek ways to maximize the amount you can spend.
Key Takeaway: Maximize your dollars with deals.
Tip #7: Keep it simple. More important than anything else is to try to keep it simple. This is especially important if you’re on a tight budget or you are working towards a big financial goal. Keep things simple! Big holiday parties or a Christmas tree full of gifts are great only if you can afford it. It doesn’t feel so good to do or have all of these things, and have to spend the entire year paying them off. Be realistic, but more importantly try to keep it simple.
Key Takeaway: Don’t let one day knock you off your game for the entire year.