This year has been unprecedented, and many of us have adapted to online shopping, and therefore an increase in our online spending. As a country, we generally overspend our budgets each year. A few purchases here and there can really start to add up and with the ease of online shopping and savvy offers from advertisers, it’s easy to see why we spend so much. With the holiday season in full swing, it’s time to take a look at your spending and how you can stay within your budget.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Your list of gifts and supplies to buy may be pretty long. It may be hard to take names off your gift list, but if you are considering a smaller budget this year, consider paring down the list. While gifting is a large part of the holiday season, gifting should be done with joy. Now may be a good time for a conversation with loved ones about the need for gift exchanging. Some families consider buying only for children, buying family gifts or exchanging names instead of buying for everyone.
Set Your Budget
Once you have an idea of how many items you may need to buy, do some research and create a budget for your shopping. Be realistic in determining how much you are willing to spend. Don’t forget to add in a line or two for the accessories like wrapping paper, tags, batteries or other supplies. If you decide to travel this year, don’t forget to add those costs to your overall budget.
Many retailers are already advertising holiday specials, so there may be some great deals to be had this season. Take some time to research prices before you commit to buy, especially for larger ticket items or electronics. Beware of doorbuster deals as often the inventory for those items can be limited, and often, other low prices can found after the big rush.
Don’t Shop All at Once
For some, the best part of holiday shopping is the full-day spree where you feel you’ve accomplished a goal and can mark a big task off your to-do list. Think about breaking up your shopping into smaller, shorter events. If you decide to do in-person shopping, remember that retailers are looking for you to add those last minute and impulse buys to your cart as you roam the aisles. All of those little, cute items are hanging around the cash register for a reason! The little items can sure add up, so try to stick to your list.
Track Your Spending
While you are checking things off that list, make sure you are tracking your spending so that you are sticking closely to your budget. This is an easy way to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything and to move money or reallocate expenses as needed. If you’ve scored a great deal on an item, you can tuck those savings away for other gifts or to put towards savings for another day. One helpful tip is to start a Note on your phone and quickly add all purchase totals/receipts from both online and in-store purchases as soon as you make them. This makes it easy to keep things in one place, not forget that one-off purchase and do quick check ins on your budget as needed.
Alternative Gifting - Get Creative
If you’ve streamlined your budget and are still coming up short, don’t panic yet! Think about making gifts if you have the time and creativity. There’s plenty of inspiration available online and a gift from the heart can be very meaningful. If handmade isn’t your cup of tea, the gift of time, service or experience may be just the right answer. Give your loved one a promised day of doing something they enjoy. Or give them a gift of a break from making dinner, doing laundry or cleaning up the bathroom. Many of these won’t cost a penny, but can be the most meaningful thing you could give.
Low Interest Loans
If you’ve decided that you have a few more items to buy on your list, then a loan from UHCU may also be able to help. Personal Loans can often assist for a period and provide your budget some breathing room.
It’s Never Too Early To Plan For Next Year
Once you’ve made it through managing your budget and planning out your lists, it may be a good time to think about setting up a Special Savings account to help you save for next year. To help you get started, think about the buying that you did this year and what else you might have wanted to buy and then set a savings goal. You can then set up automatic transfers to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly basis or on the date of your pay check to help build your savings.
The holidays can be stressful, so taking the time to create your budget to avoid over-spending is one of the best ways to make sure you’re ending the year on a happy, successful note!