There’s no denying that the holidays are a time to ‘eat, drink, and be merry’, but as we know, all of this holiday cheer comes at a price. The season represents nearly 30 percent of some retailer’s total annual sales and consumer spending is expected to reach an impressive $678.75 billion in 2017. For suppliers, this is great news, but Americans spend 9X the amount of money shopping during the final months of the calendar year than any other season.
While it may be tempting to put off your budgeting attempts until you’ve satisfied all of the needs for the season, there’s actually no better place to start than during the holidays. Here are five steps you can take to keep your spending under control this Christmas.
1. Decide on a Budget
As we approach the holiday season, take some time to sit down and decide how much money you can really afford to spend this year. The last thing you want to do is forgo important bills in favor of unnecessary decorations, travel, or gifts. Think through all of the different aspect of your holiday needs and divide them into categories. Rank these from most-to-least important and set your budget to match. Think through special events on your calendar as well as travel, and how much this will cost. If the numbers aren’t quite lining up in your favor, think about what sacrifices and changes you need to make.
2. Open a Holiday Savings Account
While retailers are sure to insight anticipation for the season earlier and earlier each year, the holidays still seem to sneak up out of nowhere. If you know you are going to have a lot of expenses this year, start preparing early. Cut unnecessary costs throughout the year, such as that rarely used cable bill or high utility costs. Set aside the money you save in a savings account reserved for the holidays. As the season approaches save money where you can by bringing lunch to work and skipping those weeknight meals out. Cutting back on small things can help you splurge in other areas guilt-free during the holidays.
3. Watch Out for Retail Gimmicks
We’ve all been there – walking into the store for a simple gift card and ending up with a cart full of presents your family “needs”. While shopping in stores can be fun, it’s easy to get caught up in flashy sales and retail gimmicks that may or may not be worth the cost. This season, lookout for things like constant sales, decoy pricing, retail credit, loyalty cards, refund policies and other gimmicks retail outlets employ to take advantage of shoppers during the holiday season.
4. Shop Online
If you’re worried about your ability to control your spending in-store, trying shopping online this season. It’s easier to stay focused on what it is you’re looking for, compare deals, and find the best prices for your presents. Start shopping as far in advance as possible to get faster shipping. Set a timer and make a list before you jump online so you don’t get distracted by endless “related” or “recommended” items and complete your shopping quickly.
5. Focus on Thoughtful Giving
Spending a lot of money doesn’t necessarily make a good gift. While it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you have to spend a certain amount per person, it’s really the thought that counts. If you’re searching for a good rule of thumb to live by for your kid’s gifts this year try purchasing: one thing they need, one thing they want, and one experience to share. If they’re used to getting overloaded with toys, just make sure you set expectations appropriately.
Avoiding overspending during the holidays may not be easy, and certainly requires some extra focus and effort, but your post-December bank account will surely thank you for it.