How to Avoid Going Over Budget This Holiday Season
The holiday season is just around the corner, and you’re likely already thinking about how you will afford all of your expenses without going over budget. There are a lot of financial obligations at this time of year and, if you’re not careful, you can get into serious debt trouble.
Here are some tips for having a happy holiday without going over budget.
Have a List
It’s crucial that you make a list before you start shopping. Otherwise, you won’t know what you should buy, you’ll be tempted to impulse buy items, and you won’t know how much you have left to purchase when you’re out there shopping. It simply isn’t possible to make a proper holiday budget without creating a list of what you need.
Sit down and spend some time thinking about exactly what you need to purchase this holiday season. Try to make your list as complete as possible. Then, write down the estimated prices for each item on the list. When you’re done, add it all up. Is the total something you can afford? If not, go back and make adjustments.
When you shop – whether you’re shopping online or in physical stores – keep your list nearby. Don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the thrill of shopping, but controlling yourself and sticking to your list will prevent you from overspending.
Track Your Spending
Track every dollar you spend. Whether you keep track in a notebook, your phone, or your computer is up to you, but it’s critical that you keep a running total of your spending. After all, this is how you avoid spending more than you should. Try to write down each expense shortly after you spend the money, so you don’t miss anything.
It’s also a good idea to regularly compare what you’ve actually spent to the amount budgeted for each category, and to revise your budget as possible. For instance, if you budgeted $50 for holiday decorations, and you ended up spending $65, you’ll need to find $15 that you can cut from another category so that everything still balances. On the other end, if you budgeted for $50 and you only spent $40, you’re on a good path!
Don’t wait until the last minute to shop. There are several reasons why. The first is that you limit your options. If you only have one shopping day to get everything done, you won’t have any time to comparison shop to find the best prices.
Another reason you’ll want to shop early is because waiting too long means you won’t be able to take advantage of sales. If you shop early, you can look around to find special offers and discounted prices on the items you need. If you wait until it’s almost too late, you have to pay the price that’s in front of you, even if it’s inflated. Retailers know this and they tend to charge more as the end of the holiday season arrives.
Before you rush out and spend a lot of money buying presents and décor, try think of creative ways that you can celebrate without spending as much money. You may be able to reuse your decorations from last year or repurpose some of your everyday things into holiday items, for instance. You might even find the time to make creative gifts for your friends and family at a fraction of the cost of buying something new.
Think of What You Already Have
Not everything needs to be brand new this holiday season. As mentioned, you can likely reuse many of your decorations from previous years and doing so won’t cost you a dime. The same goes for clothing. Yes, it would probably be nice to buy a brand new dress or suit to wear to this year’s holiday parties, but if that isn’t in the budget, think of what you already have in your closet that you can wear. With a few minor adjustments, you might be able to put together an amazing holiday outfit that doesn’t break the bank. Want to add something new? Consider buying a new accessory, such as an inexpensive bracelet or necklace, rather than a whole new outfit.
Don’t Overdo It
You don’t need to go all out and spend a fortune to have a happy holiday season. Avoid the temptation to “keep up” with anyone and don’t listen to what the advertisers tell you. The holiday season isn’t about spending as much as possible, it’s about having fun and spending time with your loved ones.
Don’t overdo it and put yourself into debt. Doing so will hurt you in the long run and make your life much more difficult. Enjoy the moments that don’t cost money, such as a day spend chatting with an old friend or a fun afternoon playing outside with your children. These moments can be some of the best times you’ll have this holiday season, and they won’t cost you anything financially.