Marketing campaigns are gearing up to open your wallet
How not to fear your bank account statement on December 26th
Holiday spending. Seven in ten Americans don’t have enough money set aside for the holidays, yet fall has arrived. It’s time to think about autumn events, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other seasonal occasions that are just around the corner. Now is the time to consider how to financially prepare for the time of year.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays. Marketing campaigns are geared toward making you open your wallet in the spirit of Christmas, so it’s hard not to fall prey. However, if you’ve got a plan in place and know how to stretch each holiday dollar, you don’t have to fear your bank account statement on December 26th. Cheaper entertainment, a focus on family, and a sensible spending plan will put you firmly in the driver’s seat of your own sleigh.
According to this year’s GOBANKING Rates Survey, more than half of Americans (57%) have less than $1,000 in their savings account and to make matters worse, nearly 7 in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover an unforeseen car repair, medical bill or when simply life throws an unexpected curve ball.
Following are some simple tips for those who recognize and value the act of saving while getting ready for the upcoming months:
START WITH A HOLIDAY BUDGET
The way you create your budget is up to you, but one thing’s for sure: you need one. Create yours before the season hits full steam, and revisit it often to make sure you’re spending within your means.
Gift giving can be a huge expense during the holidays, but don’t forget the other costs you incur throughout the season. Parties (including birthdays), travel expenses, charitable donations, and holiday-themed activities can all add up to destroy a budget. If possible, add some money into your budget for unexpected costs so you’re not left scratching your head.
GET RID OF UNNECESSARY EXPENSES
Cut back on extras. Rather than eating out daily which cost you $7-10 a day. Why not cook at home and pack your lunch? By month end you’ll save at least $150-200. Buying a coffee latte piled sky-high with whipped cream, splurging on a pair of shoes for yourself, buying too many pumpkins or paying for a photo with Santa all adds up and eats into your budget. Cutting back on those extras can have a big impact on your bottom line. If you purchase a $4.50 pumpkin spice latte three times per week throughout November, that’s $162 you’ve spent on pricey drinks.
You never save money by spending, no matter how significant the discount. Sales are great, but they don’t mean much if the money isn’t in your budget. If necessary, bring a printout of your budget or list so you can check your spending in real-time and avoid being swayed by a screaming deal.
When your list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished, and avoid stopping by the mall “just to see what they have” – this can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.
If you get the itch to shop a few days before Christmas, save shopping for stocking stuffers until the last minute. You are still operating within a budget and purchasing something actually needed while fulfilling the urge to be part of the holiday hustle and bustle. By planning purchases and stopping when you’re done, you can be spared that holiday hangover come January.
HAVE MORE MEANINGFUL TRADITIONS
Traditions are what make the holidays so special, but they can be a financial burden. If your traditions include holiday travel, paying for a special attraction, or surprising your children with extravagant gifts, you might find yourself going significantly over budget in the name of family.
While traditions are important and admirable, they don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. In fact, you that children often prefer the less expensive items over the grander gestures. So many activities and traditions are inexpensive, or even free – you just have to know where to look. By making cheaper events and traditions part of your celebration, you can save money without skimping on the festivities and memories.
Here are some favorite seasonal activities:
- Go on a nearby autumn color changing park
- Tour neighborhood Christmas lights
- Watch a movie with hot chocolate at home
- Trick or Treat
- Visit Santa at the mall
- Make Christmas crafts
- Toy drives
- Volunteer work
- Assemble care packages for shelters, hospitals, or the armed forces
- Coat drives
- Bake together
- Read favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas stories
- See a high school production, such as a play or choir performance
- Go caroling
- Participate in church activities and events
Teach your children that traditions aren’t about what you spend, but the time you spend together.
Embrace the idea of potluck assignments, especially if you are hosting. Let everyone decide who is going to make the main dish, but that you’d appreciate help on sides, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Simply send out an email a few weeks in advance letting everyone know what their assignments are to ensure you don’t end up with five vegetable trays and no dessert.
Also assign games and activities to some the older teens. They love being involved, and you don’t have to stress about keeping guests entertained.