The holiday season is upon us. While most people are hurtling towards the Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas is just around the corner, and that means your spending habits are about to go a little haywire. According to the National Retail Federation, the average person plans to spend around $1,000 on Christmas gifts this year, and that's just gifts. Christmas gifts aren't the only massive expenditure during the holiday season, either. You don't have to go broke to have an enjoyable holiday season, though. We have a few tips for keeping your holiday spending in check.
Set a Budget
Setting a budget is the most important aspect of holiday spending. Setting a budget is the first step to keeping your bank account healthy through the winter holidays. Before you buy a single present or pull out your credit card for spools of ribbon, set a budget for the entire season. Some folks like to break down their budget by the person, or by category.
For example, if you have ten people to buy for, you can set a budget for each person. Another option would be to craft categories, like presents, gift wrap, decorations, host/hostess gifts, food, and charitable contributions. The way you choose to organize your budget is entirely dependent on what works best for your specific holiday needs.
Research Your Gift Ideas and Make a List for Holiday Spending
Excel comes in handy for this particular tip. Create lists for each individual you'll be buying gifts for and decide on the presents before you head to the store. If you head into the store with a game plan, not only will it take you less time to shop, but you'll avoid erroneous spending and impulse purchases.
Once you have items in hand, make sure to update your spreadsheet. Not only will this help you stay organized, but it will make it incredibly easy to keep track of your total expenditures. Don't forget to keep a running tally, so you know when you are getting close to your purchasing limit.
Combine All of Your Data Into a Working Spreadsheet
You should already have on spreadsheet for gifts, but consider creating a master spreadsheet for your overall holiday spending. Like we mentioned, there is more to holiday shopping than merely buying presents for others. To make sure you are on top of all of your spending, you'll want to track everything, including the clothes you buy for any holiday parties you have to attend, and the tape you need to wrap all of those gifts.
Update your tally as you go, deducting form your overall budget in real-time. Not only does this make it easier to see what you've spent, but it will help you set an endpoint. It's easy to allow your budget to go haywire on incidental spending during the season, so keeping track is a surefire way to reign everything in.
Set a Hard Date When You Stop Spending
For many people, the last few days of the holidays are hectic. This is the time of year that spending seems to ramp up the most. It makes sense, after all. For many people, the last few buying days are a whirlwind of expenditures, and often times panic can set it, leaving people grabbing up last-minute gifts without keeping costs in mind. To avoid this problem, pick a date where you stop buying items.
Christmas, for example, is December 25. You may consider setting your final spending day as December 15. That leaves you with ten days to wrap your presents, update your budget, and tally all of your receipts. By avoiding last-minute shopping, you'll avoid the holiday panic that can absolutely destroy your budget.
The holiday season is excellent for retail, but it's not a great time for individual spending. If you are trying to keep your bank account healthy as you head into the new year, you'll need a game plan. Using the tips above will help you keep your mind and bank account healthy during the most wonderful, but also the most expensive, time of year.