It’s officially the holiday season!
The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with your loved ones, but they can also be a source of stress and anxiety for your finances. If you want to enjoy the festive season without breaking the bank, you need to plan ahead, save money and stick to a budget. In this article, we will share some simple tips on how to save money and budget for the holidays, so you can have a merry and debt-free time.
- Set a realistic budget and track your spending
- Make a list and check it twice
- Shop smart and compare prices
- Use cash, rewards points or gift cards
- DIY your gifts, decorations and food
Set a Realistic Budget and Track your Spending
One of the most important steps to save money and budget for the holidays is to set a realistic budget and track your spending. A budget will help you allocate your money for different categories, such as gifts, food, travel, entertainment and charity. It will also help you avoid overspending and impulse buying.
To set a budget, you need to estimate how much you can afford to spend on the holidays, based on your income, expenses and savings. You can use a spreadsheet, an app (my favorite is Every Dollar app by Dave Ramsey) or a website to create your budget and track your spending.
Once you have your budget, it is of course wise to try to stick with it and track your spending regularly. You can use cash envelopes, debit cards or prepaid cards to limit your spending for each category. You can also use apps or websites to sync your transactions, connect your bank accounts and monitor your progress. And while it is okay to sometimes splurge here and there or heck, life just happens with an emergency popping up, you do notice that you are frequently spending more than you planned, it is good advice to perhaps adjust your budget or cut back on some expenses.
Make a List and Check it Twice
Another tip for keeping your bank account in green during this festive season is to become a “lister” – that is, to make a list and check it twice that it is what you need and not exceedingly all your “wants”. A list will help you organize your shopping and avoid buying unnecessary items, and certainly, help you stay on track. It will also help you save time and energy by avoiding last-minute shopping, the holiday rush and mental stress.
A helpful tip in making a list is to write down the names of all the people you want to buy gifts for, and the amount you want to spend on each person. You can also include some ideas of what to buy for each person, based on their preferences, needs and interests. You can use a paper journal or notebook (if you are an old soul like me), or a spreadsheet (if you geek out on sheets), or even an app (if you love being tech savvy) to create and manage your list.
Once you have your list, it would be helpful to double check the list and be flexible to adjust to some last minute price increases, but generally, make sure you stick to your holiday budget. You can cross off the items as you buy them, and update the amount you spent on each person. You can also use apps or websites to share your list with your family and friends, and coordinate your gift giving. This way, you can avoid buying the same gifts or spending more than you need to.
Shop Smart and Compare Prices
A third tip to save money and budget for the holidays is to shop smart and compare prices. Shopping smart means that you look for the best deals, discounts and offers on the items you want to buy. Comparing prices means that you check different stores, websites and apps to find the lowest prices on the same items.
To shop smart and compare prices, you need to do some research and planning before you buy anything. You can use online tools, such as Google Shopping Price Grabber and ShopSavvy, to compare prices and find the best deals on the items you want. You can also use coupons, promo codes and cash-back offers to save even more money.
Another way to shop smart and compare prices is to shop early or late. Shopping early means that you start shopping before the holiday season, when the prices are lower and the selection is wider or during Black Friday for deals ahead of Christmas. Shopping late means that you wait until after the holiday season, when the prices are reduced and the clearance sales are on. However, you need to be careful not to miss out on the items you want or compromise on the quality.
Use Cash, Rewards Points or Gift Cards
A fourth tip to save money and budget for the holidays is to use cash, rewards points or gift cards. Using cash means that you pay with physical money, instead of using credit cards or other forms of debt. Using rewards points means that you redeem the points you earned from your credit cards, loyalty programs or other sources for free or discounted items. Using gift cards means that you use the cards you received as gifts or bought at a discount for yourself or others.
Using cash, rewards points or gift cards can help you save money and budget for the holidays in several ways. First, they can help you avoid paying interest, fees or other charges that come with using credit cards or other forms of debt. Second, they can help you reduce your spending, as you are limited by the amount of cash, points or cards you have. Third, they can help you get more value for your money, as you can get free or discounted items with your points or cards.
To use cash, rewards points or gift cards, you may consider planning ahead and allocating these rewards points for your holiday spending. You can use cash envelopes, debit cards or prepaid cards to limit your cash spending for each category. You can use online tools, such as AwardWallet, Points.com and CardCash, to manage your rewards points and gift cards, and find the best ways to use them.
DIY your Gifts, Decorations and Food
A fifth tip to save money and budget for the holidays is to DIY your gifts, decorations and food. DIY can help you save money and budget for the holidays, as well as add a personal touch and a creative flair to your holiday celebrations.
To DIY your gifts, decorations and food, you need to use your skills, talents and resources to create something unique and meaningful for yourself or others. You can use materials and items that you already have, or buy them at a low cost from thrift stores, dollar stores or online marketplaces. You can also use online tools, such as Pinterest, YouTube and Instructables, to find inspiration and instructions for your DIY projects.
Some examples of DIY gifts, decorations and food are:
- Gifts: You can make photo albums, scrapbooks, calendars, candles, soap, jewelry, ornaments, mugs, coasters, bookmarks, magnets, keychains, etc.
- Decorations: You can make wreaths, garlands, centerpieces, stockings, snowflakes, lanterns, candles, etc.
- Food: You can make cookies, cakes, pies, bread, candy, jam, sauce, etc.
The holidays are a time to enjoy and celebrate, not to stress and worry about your finances. By following these simple tips on how to save money and budget for the holidays, you can have a happy and healthy holiday season without breaking the bank. Remember to set a realistic budget and track your spending, make a list and check it twice, shop smart and compare prices, use cash, rewards points or gift cards, and DIY your gifts, decorations and food. Happy holidays!
Q: How can I save money if traveling this holiday?
Some ways to save money on holiday travel are:
- Use miles or points for flights or hotels.
- Be flexible with your travel dates and destinations.
- Book early or last minute to get the best deals.
- Use travel apps or websites to find cheap flights, hotels and car rentals.
- Pack light and avoid baggage fees.
- Travel with friends or family and split the costs.
Q: How can I save money on holiday entertainment?
Some ways to save money on holiday entertainment are:
- Look for free or low-cost events and activities in your area, such as concerts, festivals, parades, etc.
- Host a potluck, game night or movie night with your friends or family, instead of going out to eat or watch a show.
- Use coupons, discounts or deals for attractions, museums, theaters, etc.
- Use cheaper or shared streaming services, online games or books for indoor entertainment.
Q: How can I save money on holiday charity?
Some ways to save money on holiday charity are:
- Donate your time, skills or items, instead of money, to a cause or organization you care about.
- Choose a charity that is reputable, transparent and efficient, and that aligns with your values and goals.
- Use online tools, such as Charity Navigator, GiveWell and GuideStar, to research and compare charities and their impact.
- Claim a tax deduction for your charitable donations, if you are eligible.
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