With only 8 weeks left for holiday gift buying, shoppers everywhere are flooding the stores looking for that perfect gift. If you’re like me, you start each holiday season with the best intentions by making a list that you swear you’re going to stick to. Procrastination and busy schedules however keep us from sticking to our holiday shopping goals and we resort to last minute purchases that push our budgets over the edge. If you’ve created a budget for yourself throughout the year and want to stick to it through the holidays you can do it with a little planning and these five helpful tips:
1. SETTING LIMITS ON HOLIDAY SPENDING
Yes – we all want to buy our friends and family gifts they’ll really love but that doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Give your credit cards and bank balance a break by setting a limit to what you can spend. Create a mini holiday budget based on your household budget. If you don’t have a budget in place, apps like Mint and You Need A Budget are a great place to get started and help you determine what you can afford.
2. MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE
Yes – the mail carrier is a nice guy cause and the security guard at work always has a smile for you but that doesn’t mean they have to be on your gift buying list. You’re not Santa Claus. You have a finite budget and can only really afford to buy gifts for those individuals you’re really close to. If you have more than 7 names on your list do some editing and cut it down to 5. You can still give to other people in your life but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. With a little imagination you can show people you care about them without breaking the bank. The holidays are about spending time with friends and family not about spending.
3. SPEND BASED ON WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD
We all have that wealthy aunt or sibling who outdoes everyone every year with their gift giving. But just because they are in a financial position to purchase expensive gifts doesn’t mean you are. Keep your shopping to items you can afford and that fit your own finances. After all, it isn’t the gift that matters but the thought. Keeping your cash flow positive at this time of the year will have it’s rewards in the new year when the credit card bills start to roll in.
4. STARTING EARLY WILL ELIMINATE IMPULSE BUYS
Search the internet for sales and coupons on items you’re looking to buy. Online shopping is a great way to avoid the last minute shopping craze in crowded malls and you can do it from anywhere and at anytime. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox before hitting the mall. These tactics will not only help you stay on track but will make gift buying easier.
5. GIFT OUTSIDE THE BOX
It’s not always about the size of the gift box or the price on the tag. Sometimes the best gift of all is your time. Think about all the people you’ve neglected over the year. Not because you want to but because you’re too busy or you don’t live close by. Spending time with friends and family in a meaningful way goes well beyond the holiday moment. A heartfelt gesture to your nana in the nursing home is a gift that will reward the gift giver and the recipient. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter are just a couple of ways you can make a difference without spending a cent.
Lastly, remember that the holidays are a time to rejoice in the friends and family we have with us. You want to enjoy this time of the year not stress over how you’ll manage to pay your credit card bill when it arrives. Keep to your budget, give yourself time, get organized and you’ll be in a great financial position to start off the new year.