Ah, the holidays. Times filled with family, food, and festivities. Oh, and spending money. Lots and lots of money. It is easy to break the bank when you start thinking of all of the things we are expected to spend money on during the holiday season. Gifts? Check. Decor? Double Check. Hosting a party? There goes this week’s paycheck. While it is easy to get wrapped up in the holiday hoopla, it is also important to keep with reality and not overdo it. As a 20-something who has been in the workforce for a few years, I have a good enough dose of ‘real life’ to know that money does not grow on trees, and it is certainly easier to spend it than it is to make it. There are definitely some tips and tricks to keeping things in line during your holiday shopping!
1. Plan in advance
The holiday season may only be for the month of December, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with making purchases in advance, even if it means Christmas shopping in July (don’t judge me for that one!) I had a good idea of gifts that I wanted for Jackson, so rather than mindlessly buying gifts as I stumbled across them, I put together a list of items that I thought he would really like, that stayed within an appropriate budget. Little trinkets and toys don’t seem like much, but it also doesn’t take much for a lot of ‘little gifts’ to add up to an astronomical amount. If you know you want that adorable play kitchen for your kids, or a new phone for your hubby, it makes perfect sense to plan this out months in advance and be mentally (and financially) prepared for those purchases so that it doesn’t all hit your bank account at once. This is also a great way to break up your holiday spending so you can budget it out over time, rather than having major credit card shock come December.
Another thing to keep in mind is discount days. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Free Shipping Day (coming up on December 18th!) are all great ways to take advantage of great sales and prices, but require a bit of planning. Put those dates on your calendar, because it is basically a guarantee that these will be some of the best deals on your must have items!
2. Prepare for surprise extras
You are bound to run into fun little extras throughout the holiday season that you simply ‘have to have’. Stocking holders, home decor items, and fun clothing purchases for yourself are all little things that add up, but are reality. Plan this into your budget! While I prepared in advance for my gifts and holiday decor this year, I also knew that I would stumble across new and improved holiday items that I wanted. Last year, I bought Jackson a pile of clearance holiday pajamas for this year, and while he has gotten plenty of use out of them, I also couldn’t resist investing in a few of the new pairs that hit shelves this year. If you know you will want something, be on the lookout early, watch for sales, and allow yourself the grace to splurge a little during the happiest time of the year.
3. Be realistic
I would love to invest in every single person I know and care for during the holidays. Wouldn’t it be great to buy each parent and sibling a quality, expensive item that would be a total surprise!? Unfortunately, that would result in our entire month’s income. Personal Capital recommends budgeting your holiday spending based on your income. This is a great way to put into perspective what you can actually afford. And, of course, there is flexibility in this, as some may wish to cut back on personal spending a few months out of the year to allow for extra spending on gifts! Still, it really is the thought that counts, so if you are bringing home an entry level salary, don’t feel obligated to buy everyone you know a CEO salary gift.
4. Pick and choose your priorities
Is there something that you just can’t live without during the holidays? Personally, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas if my house isn’t decorated with a twinkly tree and candles that smell like Christmas. I know this, and so I invest in this. Buying every last coworker a trinket and covering my house exterior in lights? Not so high on the priority list, and I know this won’t change how I feel about the holidays, so it isn’t something I worry about or spend much on. Don’t feel obligated to spend money on anything and everything!
Another great way to cut back on spending is to do a gift exchange. In my family, instead of buying a gift for all of my siblings, we just do a trade. Typically, my sister and I exchange and then my brothers exchange (because we know each other’s preferences best!) In doing so, we are able to invest in one really nice gift, rather than three not so special gifts, or worse, three really nice gifts. This may sound like a terrible idea to some, but it works for us and takes out the guilt of feeling obligated to buy a gift for everyone, because we know that we are all ok with it!
5. Get creative
Expensive gifts do not always make the best gifts. Crafting is not for everyone, but it can be a great way to give gifts that are personal, can be used, and best of all, are affordable. This scarf and these mugs are super fun and inexpensive DIY gifts that are cute, trendy, and cheap to make. And best of all, they allow you to customize your gift to the person you are making it for.
Holiday spending really can be hard to keep under control, but really it comes down to planning, knowing your budget, and doing a little bit of thinking before making spur of the moment purchases. The month of December doesn’t have to break the bank, but it should definitely be fun and festive!