What many consider the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most expensive. The holidays are around the corner, and if you haven’t started saving and budgeting for gifts, travel, decorations, and more—you could find yourself in a debt hangover in the New Year.
According to the National Retail Federation, “Over the last five years, Americans have spent an average of $641 on holiday gifts, $224 on non-gift items like food and decorations, and $139 on other non-gift purchases”.
Just like other areas of life, inflation will most definitely impact the holidays. That is why it is essential to start planning early.
Start Planning Early
Setting your priorities early can help ensure that necessary items in your daily budget aren’t sacrificed. For example, try to spread out your purchases over the next few months rather than packing most or all of your holiday spending in December.
Ask yourself how do I plan on spending this holiday season. Will it be a small gathering with loved ones at home or a family vacation? Make it a goal to settle on how and where you’ll celebrate the holidays early so that you can avoid paying steep prices for travel, rental cars, and accommodations and have more time to scour the internet for deals. If you decide to keep it local, know that you will still need to budget for any party-hosting costs like food and decor or host or hostess gifts if you’re attending someone else’s celebration.
List Your Expenses
Holiday expenses usually go beyond gift-giving. It helps to try and determine your budget for how much you’ll spend in each of the following categories:
- Gifts: This includes your family, friends, kids’ teachers, and holiday tips for service providers like babysitters, hair stylists, and mail carriers.
- Decorations: That might include lights, ornaments, Christmas trees, lawn decorations, and more.
- Holiday travel: Whether it’s a holiday vacation or round-trip flights to your hometown, holiday travel can add up fast. If you’re taking a road trip, don’t forget to budget for gas (especially in California).
- Food and entertaining: If you’re going to play host, you will need to think about food, drinks, and if your guests will be chipping in for the festivities. If you plan on attending holiday parties this year, keep in mind there might be expenses for Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchanges.
Take Advantage of Sales
You don’t have to wait for the holidays to come around to start making purchases. Instead, take advantage of holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday to save on gifts for your loved ones. You can also sign up to receive emails from your favorite retailers so that you never miss out on a sale or coupon.
Track Your Spending
To help you stay on budget and avoid the dreaded January credit card bill, be sure to track your spending whether you use a credit card, debit card, cash, or any other payment method.
0% APR Card With Rewards
If cash is tight right now and you want to pay off your holiday purchases over 12 months or more, consider applying for a card with an introductory 0% APR. You need to have good to excellent credit to qualify for a no-interest credit card. Using a card with an introductory 0% APR gives you a temporary period to pay off your bigger holiday purchases without incurring any interest fees. Rewards cards can unlock cash back and other worthwhile perks when done right!
A realistic budget and plan can help you avoid overspending and start the New Year off on the right foot.