How to Keep Your Budget This Holiday
The Christmas commercials are on television; all you can see are visions of sugar plums dancing in your head and Christmas carols ringing in your ears. There’s a glint in your eye as you rush out the front door with your charge card held high… STOP! Put down the card and back slowly away and take a deep breath. You need to take a good look at your Christmas budget. Don’t buy now what you’ll regret later.
So here are some budget tips to help you avoid that after-holiday spending crash:
1. You need to know what your budget really is; not what you think or hope that it is. So see how much money you have left after your monthly expenses are covered as they actually are. If you have a Christmas savings account or a bonus coming, now you can review how much you want to spend on Christmas gifts. It may be late to start the savings account for this Christmas, but next year is open.
2. Use cash, not credit. Yes, this is a difficult one but you’ll be thankful after the holidays are over. You need to set a limit either for the total amount you want to spend or the amount per person too. When you set an amount per person, put it in an envelope and put his or her name on it. Or, put the entire amount of what you’re spending in cash in an envelope. When the cash is gone, you’re done spending. It’s easier if you saved all year too, but most people don’t so join the club. Still this isn’t a reason to spend on credit and add debt you don’t need. Owing just little or nothing is better than pride.
3. Make homemade gifts. If you’re the crafty type, then make your own gifts. Some things are really simple to make such as homemade soaps which are individually wrapped. Or crocheted or knitted dishcloths wrapped around a pretty candle and tied with a bow are always a delightful gift. If you’re a card maker, making a set of all occasion cards with envelopes placed in pretty cellophanes bags makes a lovely gift. If you’re a baker, make and give cookies. The possibilities are endless.
4. If you’re buying big ticket items for gifts, start comparison shopping early. You can buy some things online or shop the store circulars without even leaving your chair. You can use free apps like Pounce which allow you to purchase the items by taking a photo of the product in the circular. You can do your shopping on your time this way and not have to brave the crazy shopping madness.
5. If you are having financial difficulties due to losing your job or a reduction in income, be honest about it to family and friends. Be up front before you start shopping for the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy everyone in your family something, suggest drawing names and only buying a gift for that one person. You may be surprised to find out that other members of your family are feeling the financial strain as well and will welcome a change in tradition. Also in this vein, you could suggest to your friend that you meet for coffee and just enjoy time together after the busy holidays when you both can catch up. You may both find that spending quality time as good friends is worth more than a new scarf or purse given or received.
You can get through this holiday season with your budget intact and your credit cards not smoking from overuse. Just use common sense and learn to tell yourself no when you shop. After all, it’s about the memories you make, the times that you share with loved ones, and the fun that you’ll enjoy.