The holiday season is fast approaching and that means it’s almost time for holiday shopping! Christmas shopping can be fun, but it can also be stressful. If you’ve been working hard to get your spending and your budget under control, one ill-timed holiday shopping spree can blow your budget in a big way.
This year as you try to get your bank account healthy and your budget intact, approach Christmas shopping with the same amount of fun as always, but with a new collection of tips that will eliminate holiday stress.
Make a List (and Check It Twice)
Santa has this all figured out. You never see him go into debt to buy everything in sight just because Christmas music is playing in the store. Take a note from the expert and make a list. Who are you shopping for? What would you like to get them this year?
You can sort your list in two ways. Your first option is to make a list and then prioritize your spending. How much do you want to spend on each kid? Your mom? Your significant other? The second option is to make a list and then note what you’d like to give that person. Sometimes the best gifts aren’t expensive ones after all.
Set a Hard Budget
If you are planning to just buy things as the whim strikes or wait and grab a few things at the last minute you are setting yourself up for failure. When you fail to track your holiday spending, you spend too much. Take a look at your savings if you have some. See if there are possibilities to pull a bit of extra from your paychecks over the next month or two. Determine exactly how much you have to spend that is already available.
Consider a Short Term Loan Rather than Credit Cards
If you don’t have funds on hand and plan to just charge things and pay them off later, consider short term loan instead. You can set your budget, take out the loan, and then have set payments to repay the loan in a short amount of time. Usually short term loans have better interest rates than credit cards and are easier to pay off. That makes them an excellent option if you have bad credit as well.
Get Your Budget in Cash
If you’re going to shop in stores for Christmas presents, get your holiday budget in cash. Take the money out of your savings account in cash. Get a cash loan. Pull cash out of the ATM. Put that cash into an envelope and make a list on the front of the envelope with your anticipated presents and stuff the cash inside. When you go to the store, find the items on the list, pay cash and cross the newly purchased items off the written list. Your entire gift shopping experience will be easily contained in a single place.
Anticipate Impulse Purchases
If you’re shopping in stores, be aware that the stores are doing their very best to tempt you into buying extra things. They will show you things that look amazing. Things you just have to have! This is the biggest shopping season of the year and there will be some good deals out there.
If you want to have fun with impulse shopping, leave yourself some room in your budget. You can even write down “impulse purchases” on your list with your cash. That way you’re covered when you find something you just have to have…provided it is less than the dollar amount you dedicated to the purchase.
It doesn’t involve bustling crowds and Christmas music, but you can save a lot of money by shopping online. The deals may not be better, but shopping online will help you avoid impulse purchases and give you better options to compare prices across stores.
Look at your list and load up the items in your basket. Compare prices across multiple stores. Look for coupons and sales. Find ways to get free shipping. You might even leave the items in the basket overnight. Sometimes retailers will send you extra discounts to encourage you to finish the purchase. (If you’re shopping online, you can’t use cash, so track your purchases carefully to avoid going over budget.)
Set Gifting Limits
If you have a family open to the idea, set gifting limits to help control spending. Agree that all families will gift cousins items $10 or less. Consider a token gift instead of an expensive one for adults. Can you do a gift exchange instead of buying for everyone?
When it comes to your own children, some families have created a gifting limit of four items: something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read. Setting that limit for everyone can help stop the wild spending that can throw your budget into chaos every year.