‘Tis the season to spend money. The winter holiday season is quickly approaching, and that means retailers are preparing to go from the red to the black as consumers spend, spend, spend. Holiday shopping doesn’t have to break the bank, though; simply follow these 10 holiday budgeting tips and you won’t wake up with a post-holiday financial hangover in the new year.
1. Make a list and check it twice – Make a list of everyone who is typically on your holiday gift-giving list. After creating your list, give it another look and determine if you can eliminate anyone from this year's list. For example, that neighbor three blocks away who you only see once a year when you exchange gifts is probably a safe one to remove.
2. Set a realistic budget and stick to it – Now that you have a good idea of who you need to buy gifts for, set a limit on how much you will spend on each person or family and stick to it.
3. Skip the credit cards – Cash is truly king. Leave the plastic at home and only bring the cash you’ve set aside for holiday shopping. This makes it difficult to overspend. Also avoid any 90-days-same-as-cash type deals; it isn’t the same as cash and if you’re even an hour late with your payment, you will be hit with finance charges and possibly penalties.
4. Kids only – If there are a lot of kids in your family, get together with all of the adults and discuss a kids-only holiday. My family decided on this method years ago, and not only do we save money, but we also save a lot of stressed-out shopping moments. As adults we typically buy what we want and/or need, so figuring out what to buy another adult is always challenging.
5. Opt out of the office gift exchange – Skip the traditional office gift exchange and propose a day of service instead. Bond with coworkers and get into the holiday spirit by donating your time to wrap presents or fill food boxes at the local food bank.
6. No emotional purchases – Let’s face it, if you’re stressed out, you’re going to spend more. Take the emotions out of your holiday purchases and stick to your original plan. Don’t get caught up in the hype of Black Friday sales; do you really need another television? Probably not.
7. Shop early – Since you already have a list, shopping early is easy. If you wait until the last minute to do your shopping, you’re not only left at the retailer’s pricing mercy but if you’re stressed, you will probably spend more than you planned.
8. Homemade gifts – If you’re crafty a homemade gift can be the perfect gift. If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, a plate of homemade treats will go a long way. Think about that neighbor you want to cross off your gift-giving list — would he enjoy a holiday-themed box of sweet treats instead?
9. Skip extended warranties – Every time I shop I’m amazed by a new extended warranty offer. A recent trip to buy a pair of $10 headphones at the office supply store came with a $2 extended warranty offer. In most cases, as in the case of a cheap set of headphones, extended warranties don’t justify the cost.
10. Learn from last year – If last year’s shopping season was a budget-busting disaster, then now is the time to learn from your mistakes. Pull out your credit card bills or bank statements from last holiday season and see where you overspent and figure out how to avoid repeating that mistake this year.
What is your favorite holiday budgeting tip?
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