Patty Cathey from Smart Retirement has some advice.
- Build a Budget
A holiday budget should cover all of your extra expenses of the season. That’s more than gifts; don’t forget about travel, decorations, gift wrap, cards and postage. A good place to start is by gathering last year’s receipts and adding them up to get an idea of a realistic total. If you didn’t save last year’s paperwork, you can start from scratch. Use a holiday budget worksheet, like the one on my website, smartretirementplan.com, and put what you think is realistic for each category. The budget worksheet will not only guide you through this holiday season, but it will be a good start for setting next year’s budget.
- Prioritize Presents
If there are people you aren’t sure whether you should buy gifts for, ask them if they would like to exchange cards this year. This may sound awkward, but the other person will probably be relieved to be on the same page. And there’s one name that doesn’t belong on your gift list - yourself! The average shopper spends about of $130 on themselves when they are out shopping for others (according to the NRF). Remember, you are not in your budget.
- Scour the Sales
The beauty of shopping early is you can score the best deals, but only if you’re vigilant! Sign up for emails from your favorite stores and watch online and in the Sunday paper to see when the items you want hit the lowest price. Just hang onto your receipts. Most stores have a 90 day return policy in case you find a better deal.
- Find the Funds
After Halloween, we will have 14 weeks until Christmas. Even if you’re not buying yet, you should be putting money away. It may seem easiest to put the money into a savings account you already have - the same account that holds your emergency fund and your vacation savings. Instead, I recommend opening separate accounts dedicated solely to each purpose.
- Track your Totals
Your holiday budget worksheet will be your guide to get you through the entire season. Take it with you when you go shopping, and update it as you go along. Knowing what you want to buy will help you zip through stores more quickly and avoid impulse purchases. Once your list is full or you’ve hit your spending limit - it’s time to leave the mall!
Q: Any other savings tips this holiday season?
When in doubt, go for the gift card! They’re great for people who are hard to buy for, and they help you stick to budget. The average shopper spent more than $170 on gift cards last year. Just make sure you’re buying from a store the receiver will actually use, so it doesn’t go to waste!