With the Holiday Season just around the corner, it may seem too early to start talking about gift buying and holiday planning. However, this is the best time of year to iron out your strategy for maintaining a balanced budget as you head into the New Year.
The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone. For people who are struggling financially, or people on the brink of going into debt, the stress brought on by the holidays can be overwhelming.
There are steps you can take to alleviate this stress, or even avoid it entirely. By setting a budget and being mindful during the holidays, you’ll discover that the season is far more enjoyable when you’re not worrying about money.
Here are our 5 tips to help avoid debt – and stay stress free – this holiday season:
- Make a List, Check it Twice
First thing, set yourself a spending limit. Be sure to keep this number inside your means to avoid going into debt.
Look at your finances for the next couple of weeks before the holidays and figure out what’s coming in, what’s going out, and what can be saved ahead of time. This will give you a nice idea on how much disposable income you’ll be able to commit to the holidays.
Next, make your holiday list. This needs to include gifts, groceries, holiday parties, decorations, and nights out. Anything you can think of, add it to the list and attach a price to it. Double check your list to ensure there’s no surprises when the holidays are here.
Having a hard time predicting all of this? Look to past years and write down everything you can think of, and work from that.
By having a budget pre-set, you’ll be able to refer back to it when the time comes, and you’ll be more likely to stick to the plan.
- Season of Giving
Over the next few weeks, there’s going to be more temptation to spend your money than any other time of year. This is the season for new releases, retail promotions, and new delicious-looking foods.
If you’re going to keep your finances in check, it would be wise to ignore these temptations.
Remember, the holidays are about giving to others, not spending on yourself. Scale back on unnecessary personal expenses like holiday themed coffees, and do your best not to do any shopping for yourself. It’s easy to ignore personal gifts because they don’t sit on your budgeted list of expenses. But each item will add up, and that online sale might be the difference between going into debt or staying above water in the New Year.
Plus, try and stay positive by understanding that you’ll likely be on the receiving end of some gifts and holiday cheer yourself.
- Cash In
If you didn’t already know, people spend 10-15% more when paying with a credit card versus paying with cash. Combine that with the stat that 30% of Canadians admit to not paying their credit cards on time and you have a recipe for bad debt.
We already know that the holidays are an expensive time of year filled with temptation, and credit cards give people the false impression that they have more money than they actually do. So, here is a simple tip:
Pay for everything with cash – or at least as much as you can.
You’ll be more mindful of what you’re spending if you pay with cash, and you’ll become a pro at staying within your budget.
*Bonus tip for shopping online: Put your budget amount on paper in front of you. As you make purchases, subtract the amount from that number. Always having what’s remaining on a budget in front of you will help reign in on spending.
- Look for Extra Money
The holidays are filled with opportunities for discounts and deals. If you become a bargain hunter, you’ll be able to find extra spending money in the savings you accumulate.
With the internet, it shouldn’t be hard to research your favorite stores and brands, or the favorite stores and brands of those you’re buying for, and find promotional codes and discounts.
Sign up for email lists to your favorite retailers so you get the inside scoop and exclusive promotions.
Take advantage of free shipping for online orders.
There’s as much excitement in finding the deal as there is savings, so have fun with it.
- Cut Corners
Finally, in order to stay within your budget and avoid going into debt this holiday season, you’ll need to become a master at cutting corners in order to save money.
There are so many little incremental items that can add up over the holidays. Fortunately, by cutting these out, or at least being mindful of these items, your savings can add up just the same.
Save on wrapping paper. Buy from a dollar store, or even use paper bags and decorations. There’s no reason for you to spend too much money on something that’s essentially going into the garbage.
Are you buying new decorations for the tree each year? Perhaps consider how much money is going into decorating and find more economic solutions like scaling back, re-using older decorations, or even making your own.
Even reconsider how you host guests. That $8 box of chocolate turtles on the coffee table can be generic brand. Buy boxed wine instead of bottles to cut your alcohol bill in half. And never be afraid to ask guests to bring something, especially if they offer.
Look at what’s costing you money and find options that cut that reduce that expense.
Nothing puts a damper on the holiday spirit than debt looming over your head. Follow these tricks to keep yourself out of trouble during the holidays, ensuring they’re merry and bright.
Worried your debt will stop you from enjoying your holidays? Get ahead of your debt by contacting us today!