Although it may seem like it is still a long way away, Christmas is closer than you think. This is especially true if you look at the number of paydays that you have before Christmas as a reference.
Save money this Christmas and avoid debt
The only way to avoid a holiday debt hangover is to start planning now.
Set a budget
Good money management of any kind starts with a solid budget. In order for your holiday spending budget to work, you’ve got to do two things: be extremely detailed with your line items and commit to following it to the letter.
Once you’ve determined how much you can spend, you can start to consider where to allocate your costs and to find ways to save money and stretch your holiday shopping dollars further.
A side note, it’s a good idea to split your budget into two sections: gifts and other holiday expenses (like holiday travel, parties, entertaining, extra costs for babysitting and transportation, etc.).
“With holiday spending, the focus tends to be on the gift list, when there are a myriad of other expenses to cover. When you encounter expenses that you haven’t anticipated, the inclination is to turn to credit. ” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
Match your cash flow with your gift list
Determine how many pay periods you’ve got between now and Christmas. After you’ve met your expenses, how much can you afford to put away in cash?
Once you’ve determined how much you’ve got to work with, you can make a shopping list. In addition to listing gift recipients, list gift suggestions and/or dollar amounts for gifts for each person.
Incorporate holiday shopping with your regular errands
If you are planning to take a portion of your paycheque for holiday gifts, plan to do a little shopping during each pay cycle when you’ve got the cash flow. To be more efficient and save time and money, you can incorporate that right into your regular errands.
While you are scanning flyers for deals on groceries, scan for deals on gift items. Not only will you stay on budget and avoid debt, you’ll have a relatively stress free holiday season. That’s a gift to give yourself.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The advantage of starting your saving and your shopping now is that you’ve got time to develop a shopping strategy in advance of notorious impulse shopping days- Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“If you take the time to set a budget now and to research what items cost, you will quickly be able to spot a deal and know if you can afford it or not,” says Schwartz.
How to save on money on gifts
Do you belong to any reward programs? Why not redeem points for merchandise for gifts? It can take time for these orders to be processed, so you are smart to do this ahead.
If you are exchanging gifts with family, attach a price limit on gifts to frame expectations and to be budget-friendly. If you are in the habit of exchanging gifts with friends, why not suggest a gift-free get-together instead?
How to save money on other expenses
Hosting the holiday dinner this year? Make it a pot luck. Instead of sending holiday cards, send ecards. Don’t get a whole new outfit for the office party. Borrow something or visit the local consignment store.