Gina Richardson December 9, 2019 at 10:15 AM

How not to overspend for the holidays

Woman shopping on computerHere’s one thing I can be sure your friends and family certainly don’t want for the holidays – for you go to into debt buying them gifts.

The holidays are not about who gets the biggest or most presents. Really, it’s about spending time with family and friends and showing your appreciation for others. And you can’t enjoy your holidays if you’re stressed about how you’re going to pay for it.

So, here are six tips to help you not regret your holiday shopping come the new year.

Create a detailed list of all your expenses

Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include everything – decorations, travel expenses, charitable donations, and food. Keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!

Determine how much money you can spend

Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.

Divide and conquer

Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.

Track as you shop

You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending.

To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.

Shop smartly and spend less

Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:

  • Use shopping apps, like the Coupons App and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
  • Follow the 24-hour rule. Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
  • Shop online on Tuesday morning. Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
  • Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
  • Shop late. Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.
Let SAFE Credit Union help

If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let SAFE Credit Union help! Here are a couple of ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:

  • Skip-a-Payment. We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip one vehicle loan payment this time of year without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most!
  • Special savings account. Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need on hand.

Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by SAFE Credit Union to see how we can help!

Insured by NCUA

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Gina Richardson

Financial Education Specialist