When holiday music is piped into malls and festive themes accompany some hard-to-miss sales, it’s no wonder people are compelled to overspend during the holidays. Here are six helpful tips to keep help keep your holiday spending in check this season.
1. Start with a list. Even Santa knows it’s wise to make a list (and check it twice!) in preparation for the gift-giving season. Make a list with everyone you plan to buy for. Be sure to include family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and anyone else in your life you would like to remember with a gift. Next, set a budget to guide your purchases. If the math doesn’t add up-you have too many gifts to buy and not enough money to go around-pare down your list or reduce the amount you can spend on each person.
2. Comparison shop. Your holiday dollars will go further if you do your homework before pulling out your wallet. Online price comparison engines can help you identify where to find the best deals. Shopping online can be a real time-saver, too, but be mindful of shipping charges. You’ll also want to watch for upcoming holiday sales and plan your shopping excursions accordingly. Black Friday is not the only time you can find deals during the season.
3. Avoid overspending on a credit card. Naturally, credit cards offer the convenience of buying now and paying later. The “pay later” scenario only works in your favor if you’re able to zero out your balance before the next billing cycle. If you don’t pay down your charges for months on end, interest accrues and suddenly that $30 gift has snowballed into an unwieldy sum. If you need to rely on credit to spread the cost of holiday purchases over a few months, factor in estimated interest charges when you make your budget. Or better yet, avoid the credit trap altogether by spending within your means.
4. Keep your savings on track. Saving should be a regular part of your monthly budget. If you’ve worked with a financial advisor before, stick to your savings plan instead of putting your financial future on hold. If you haven’t worked with a financial professional before and don’t yet have a plan for growing your nest egg, give yourself the gift of financial advice this year. A qualified financial advisor can identify strategies to help you achieve your financial goals.
5. Give sentimental gifts that don’t cost much. When you’re in stores, it’s easy to get distracted and start to ignore your budget. Don’t buy into the notion that the price tag of a gift indicates its ultimate value. The best gifts are not necessarily the most expensive. In many cases, a thoughtful, sentimental gift can mean as much or more than an expensive object.
6. Remember to put people first. In our consumer-centric society, it’s easy to get carried away with material things. It’s important to stay focused on what truly matters about the season-spending time with the people who mean the most to you. It doesn’t cost anything to take some time away from the hustle and bustle and savor the special moments that come with the holidays.