It’s the most wonderful time of year—and the most expensive. The air is filled with joy and laughter, but there are also other overwhelming feelings making their way around; anxiety flips through the air as each sound of a credit card swiping gets louder and louder.
Contrary to common belief, the holidays don’t have to be as expensive as you think. There are small and simple steps you can take now to ensure your finances don’t take a big hit and that your holiday stress remains minimal.
Here are some tips to help you manage your holiday spending and keep that credit card from becoming overworked and exhausted.
Make a Budget and Stick To It
You may have some of your holiday shopping done already, but regardless, it’s never too late to make a budget. Many people begin holiday shopping without making a specific budget and end up in a financial bind after the holidays. A Credit Sesame survey found that 32% of people don’t create a holiday budget at all, and of these people, 20% exceed that budget.
To avoid overspending, take inventory of your shopping list (including gifts, food for the holidays, regular monthly bills, etc.) and determine what amount you can afford to spend. Once you have this information, keep it with you and look at it often. Consistently reminding yourself of your budget will ensure you won’t neglect or forget it when holiday shopping.
If you’re worried you might go over budget, try paying in cash instead of using a credit card. You can withdraw your budget amount before you go shopping and leave your credit cards at home. This way, you’ll be less likely to overspend because you won’t have a penny more than what your budget allows for with you.
A Nerd Wallet report revealed 39.4 million Americans are still making payments to pay off last year’s holiday credit card debt. Typically, if you’re paying in cash, you’re spending money you currently have rather than charging money to a credit card that you’ll have to pay off later.
Especially around the holidays, it’s the thought that counts. The gifts you give don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. Try making some of your own gifts this year. Homemade gifts not only mean more to loved ones, but they are also most likely much cheaper than if you were to buy something at the store. You could even substitute gifts for homemade snacks! Who doesn’t like a fresh batch of homemade goodies?
Here are a few gift ideas you can make yourself for an affordable price:
- Homemade fleece blanket
- Wood photo decoration
- Peppermint Blondies
- Picture frame luminaries
- Stovetop Potpourri
- Homemade Christmas ornaments
Find Deals Before Buying
Before you make your final purchase, look to see if they’re on sale first. Search for the items at a variety of stores and websites to find who has the cheapest prices. Many people have a favorite store they are used to shopping at, so they neglect to check out the prices at other stores. Also, look for coupons before shopping. There’s no shame in taking the time to save money! There are even coupon apps you can install on your smartphone for free that allow you to search for coupons near you. A few of the top coupon apps are SnipSnap, Coupon Sherpa, and Checkout 51. You can also search “[item] + coupon codes” on the Internet and there will often be deals you can get for certain websites.
Lastly, keep an eye out for holiday specials. Even if you don’t see any advertised specials in a store, ask an employee if there are any special deals going on before you buy. Also, check websites for any deals, as websites usually advertise their specials on the top of every page or on their homepage specifically where you can easily see it. Medical Guardian, for example, is having a New Year’s Sale on medical alert systems—if you use the promo code “NYE18”, you get 2 free months of service with any medical alert, plus free installation and free activation. Companies have offers like this all the time, especially during the holidays, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled!