The holiday season can be the best time of the year! It is filled with time spent cooking and baking, decorating, outdoor winter fun and making memories with loved ones. This is a time of year for giving to your loved ones and supporting the less fortunate members of your community. I love to give, but, unfortunately, I don’t have an unlimited supply of funds. This means that each holiday season I need to come up with a plan to ensure I make the smartest financial decisions during the season of giving.
If you’re determined to escape the cycle of holiday overspending, here are five tips on how to do it.
1. Pay down any high credit card balances – A proactive way to prepare for the holiday season is to pay down your existing credit card balances well in advance. Put together a list of the debt you’ve accumulated. Make at least the minimum payments on your credit card bills, then pay more if you can. To cut down on the interest owed, try paying at least two times the monthly minimum payment. If you are fortunate enough to receive year-end bonuses and tax refunds at the end of the year, use those to get caught back up after the holiday season. This will also make any new balances easier to pay off post-holiday season and ensure your credit score stays in good shape. Paying off debt, especially if you’ve accumulated a lot of it, takes time. Look for opportunities to cut costs, especially recurring expenses you might no longer need, like an old gym membership, cable costs or online subscriptions.
2. Build a budget – The more you plan, the less you spend. When building a budget, it’s a good idea to include a savings category for holiday expenses so you know just how much you have to spend when the time comes. It is also a great idea to create a list of the items you will want to purchase and organizations you will want to donate to (and then stick to it)! Re-evaluate the list along the way, but always reference your budget to make sure it still aligns.
3. Take advantage of holiday deals – It can be so tempting to purchase the “perfect” gift right when you see it, but is that always the best idea? Are there upcoming sales or do you possibly have a coupon at home? Ensure you are making the most of the holiday season and the huge holiday discounts many retailers offer.
4. Return policies – During the holiday season, stores often have different return or refund policies on certain items. Be sure to check with the store clerk before making your purchase. There is nothing worse than needing to return an item down the road and not being able to.
5. Be more intentional – The holidays are a great time to discuss what the season means to your family. Think about how you want your loved ones to remember the holidays. It could be more volunteer work or taking time to help a friend. Focus on your intentions of spending less and remind yourself that making smart credit decisions this holiday season may mean a happier, less stressful New Year.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the cycle of overspending during the holiday season. If you plan ahead and remind yourself of your intentions this holiday season, it can lead to a truly happy start to the New Year!