‘Tis the season to be thrifty! If you’re still feeling the effects of the holiday season on your wallet today, then you’re probably not alone. According to a survey from SunTrust Banks, 46% of Americans felt pressured to spend more than they could afford during the holidays in 2015.
That’s why Tree Classics has come up some helpful Christmas shopping advice to help keep you on time, and on budget.
Decide on a Firm Budget
Deciding how much to budget for gifts is a personal choice. No one can tell you how much to spend on other people for Christmas. It’s up to you to figure out how much you can afford to set aside this time of year knowing that you have other expenses to cover at the same time.
When you come up with a budget, keep in mind that the holidays can get expensive even if you don’t purchase a single gift! Christmas season is usually the time when we decorate the house from floor to ceiling, travel home for the holidays, and go out night after night with our different circles of friends. You may also want to set aside money to donate to charity.
When you decide on your budget for Christmas shopping, remember to consider this amount in the context of your cash flow (how much cash you have on-hand) and your other expenses. After budgeting for regular monthly expenses, know how much you have left to spend, and how far you’re going to let your credit card bill go.
Make a List (Check it Twice!)
Keeping a list isn’t just about knowing who you need to give gifts to. We also recommend assigning a fixed amount for each person on your list. When you add up everyone’s amount, you’ll know whether or not you’ve set a realistic budget for yourself.
Keep a copy of this list with you at all times and don’t forget to update it every time you buy a new gift. Make sure you note the actual amount you spent (including tax, shipping, etc.) beside the budgeted amount for each person to track your progress.
It’s almost inevitable that you end up buying a gift or two that are over budget. If you just couldn’t help but slurge on that robot vacuum cleaner or an eloquent set of cheese knives for a deserving friend, you’ll just have to decide where you’re going to get that extra money from. The good news is that if you have your list handy, you can also check where you’ve spent below your budget and see how much of your over budget spending can be offset.
Get Started Early
Starting early on Christmas shopping has many advantages. First of all, you won’t feel rushed, and pressured to buy anything that you haven’t fully considered yet. Give yourself some breathing room to say “no” to purchases that you’re not 100% sure about yet.
Second, spreading out the outflow of cash is easier on the pocket. Instead of paying a bank interest to defer your payments into installments, pay for everything in small increments as you go along. Create a self-imposed spending plan over the months leading up to December.
Third, starting early gives you time to correct for mistakes. If you realized in the thick of things that your budget is too small, or that you’ve completely forgotten to put aunt Margie on the list, it’s better to know sooner rather than later.
*A word of caution: make sure you have space at home to keep everything you buy.
Start with the Big Ones
Like starting early, starting with the bigger items gives you more time to play around with your budget later on by adjusting your plans for the smaller items. By bigger purchases, we don’t necessarily mean the most expensive ones. Start with the gifts to the people who matter to you most. Make sure that they get the best gifts possible before moving on to old friends and acquaintances.
The tricky bit is not to buy things prematurely only to end up changing your mind after the return policy has expired. Makes sure to give these major gifts a lot of thought before you actually go out and buy anything. Most online retailers will let you keep a wishlist that you can dedicate for Christmas shopping. You can even wait for them to go on sale before clicking the “Check Out” button.
Holiday spending shouldn’t have to lead to credit card debt. Getting a head start on your Christmas shopping budget can be a fun year-round project that ensures you give the best possible gifts to everyone important in your life.