Black Friday has kicked off the holiday shopping (and, for many of us, overspending) season. The joy of the season can easily be overshadowed by stress if you know you will be battling bills long after the holidays have come and gone. But don’t despair! Here are five tips to keep the holidays red & green while keeping your bank account in the black.
1. Get Talking
If you share bank accounts with a spouse or significant other, start by talking about your budget and determine how much you can spend and still have enough money to pay your monthly expenses. Once you set your spending limit, have conversations with the rest of your family, friends and co-workers. Eliminate the taboo of discussing how much money you are spending and use that information to set financial boundaries. Let others know that your goal is for everyone to enjoy a stress-free holiday season. During your conversations, ask them for gift ideas that they’d enjoy receiving within an assigned spending range. You may find that some would appreciate skipping the gift exchange and replacing it with meaningful time spent together or shared experiences. Many people are adopting minimalistic lifestyles and don’t want more “stuff” coming into their home, but would love to receive the gift of an evening out or money toward paying their bills.
2. Create A Holiday Budget You Can Stick To
Now that you have talked with others about how much you’re spending, create a budget that you can stick to. List each recipient, along with a few different gift ideas for them, and the budgeted amount for their gift. That way you have options and aren’t “stuck” having to buy that one perfect item. Don’t forget to account for extras such as holiday cards, stamps, decorations, baking supplies, tree, donations, food, and travel expenses. Add it all up and make sure that the amount is still within your budget. If it isn’t, go back and make adjustments where needed.
3. Avoid Last-Minute Purchases
How many times have you put off shopping for a gift until the last minute and then overspent out of sheer desperation? Using your holiday gift list, search retail ads to see if anything you’re looking for is on sale. Don’t care to battle the crowds at the mall? Do your shopping online and use coupon tools like Retail Me Not, Honey, Dosh, and Rakuten to ensure that the best deal is in your cart. Better yet—make your gift list earlier next year and shop the deals available on Prime Day and through early Black Friday sales. With a little thoughtful preparation, you could knock out most of your shopping early while scoring the best prices. But buyer beware: even with great deals, don’t be lured into purchasing items for yourself if it isn’t in the budget!
4. How You Pay Is As Important As What You Pay
If you pay for gifts with cash, you are more likely to stick to your budget. Having that tangible reminder that you have limited funds helps you stay the course. Using a debit card can also help keep you on track as long as you are aware of how much money you have in your account. A no annual fee credit card with a low interest rate and rewards (such as a Royal Credit Union Platinum Rewards VISA®) can be another great option if you plan to pay it off quickly. Earning rewards from using it can be turned into free gifts, such as VISA gift cards that you can give others. Many retail stores offer extra discounts on your purchase if you open a charge account with them during checkout. Be aware that retail cards carry a higher interest rate, which could negate that additional discount if you don’t pay it off in full. Also, when you open a new charge account, a hard inquiry is made on your credit report which can lower your credit score. If you open more than one account in a short amount of time (while chasing extra discounts at various retailers), it will lower your credit score even more.
5. The Best Things In Life Are Free Or Handmade!
People everywhere are embracing a simpler, less commercialized, and more minimalistic lifestyle. That means handmade gifts are not only affordable and acceptable, they are now some of this year’s favorite things! It can be just as fun for the gift giver to custom-make a gift as it is for someone to receive it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t have the time or talent for making gifts. Do you have a favorite recipe that everyone raves about? Can you upcycle something destined for the landfill into a funky piece of art, jewelry or furniture? What special skills do you have that would provide a much-appreciated service for someone else? Think along the lines of organizing, dog walking, computer skills, yard work, babysitting, or mechanical know-how. Could you promise to make a special meal or “dessert a month” for someone? The possibilities are endless, especially when you use Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram or YouTube to get ideas. Not only could your gift be budget friendly, it could also be meaningfully customized for the happy recipient.
This year, try implementing some of these tips into your holiday shopping and swap out feeling stressed by finances with a sense of joy and peace. Empowerment over your finances is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself, and that feeling doesn’t have to end when the holidays are over!