It’s the busiest–and best–time of the year; from decorating your Christmas tree to wrapping all of those gifts that sit underneath it; it always seems there’s something I can be doing *and spending my money on*. This is also the time of year where my wallet is light and empty… So, of course, I have to share my tips on how to not go broke this holiday season.
CREATE A BUDGET
This seems pretty obvious, but for a lot of people, this isn’t something they think about. As to be expected, I have always been a very smart and cautious shopper. My grandparents taught me the importance of creating a budget and saving my money back when I was still in elementary school (my first job was helping my grandma with her real estate business!).
Every year, I determine who I am going to be getting gifts for, what items I need to buy (don’t forget holiday parties, any extra decorations, etc.) and write down how much I want to spend in total. I then break that number down for each gift, decorations, a bottle of bubbly, whatever it may be. For example, if you want your all-in Christmas budget to be $400, then I write down how much of that $400 is going to family gifts, decorations, etc.
START SAVING ASAP
It’s never too early to start saving–no matter what the item is. As early as January, I start taking some money out of my paychecks and put it into a designated Christmas account. Even if you just set aside $20 every other week, you’ll have $500 by the end of the year! That will only cost you $1.42 per day; and because you put it into a separate account, it’s out of sight and out of mind, so when Christmas does come around, it’s like you have all this money you never even thought about.
USE REWARD-BASED CREDIT CARDS
I learned all about credit cards in my senior year in high school. My economics teacher basically scared the crap out of me; “if you don’t start building your credit now, you’ll never be able to buy a home!” I immediately signed up for a credit card, buying silly, high school girl things like venti skinny vanilla lattes and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Every 30 days when I received that monthly statement, I would make sure to pay it off in full. Because of that behavior, I have great credit and access to reward-based credit cards. The beauty of those credit cards–you get money back for every dollar you spend. If you save all your points, you may have a few hundred dollars to spend on whatever you want; it’s like free money!
SHOP SMART: DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Lastly, and probably most importantly, always make sure to shop smart. Nowadays, we have access to so much information at lightning speed. If one retailer is selling something you really like, odds are another retailer is too–and it may be priced lower somewhere else, or there may be a coupon code you can apply at a different retailer.
Before I purchase anything, I always search on Google to see if there are any coupons I can use to get a better deal. I also search for that item and see if there are any other sites selling it–price match, anyone? More often than not, I end up saving a few extra bucks–and the best part, it only takes a few extra minutes of your time. If you find yourself a little stir crazy by shopping online, trade it in for the in-store shopping experience, but *don’t forget* to ask the store associate if there are any additional coupons (click here to read a past blog post for more on how to capitalize on savings during checkout).
Another important aspect of shopping smart is really thinking about the item you’re about to purchase. Is that $75 sweater going to mean more to whomever versus a heartfelt, thoughtful gift… Perhaps a lost art in a digital age–a photo from a memorable time in a nice frame–for around $25? Put in a little extra time and really think about that gift. Thoughtfulness oftentimes promotes budget-friendly ideas.
At the end of the day, it’s not about how much you spend on the holidays, but instead, how you spend your holidays.
*This sweater dress is from LF, and unfortunately, I can’t find anything like it online.