Christmas bells are ringing, and pocketbooks are jingling! If you’re like many Americans, getting wrapped up in the holiday spirit can leave your wallet a little on the light side. Here are 7 ways to avoid and alleviate holiday financial stress.
1. Create a Holiday Budget & Stick to It
Make sure you know how much you are able to spend on Christmas gift ahead of time by creating a holiday budget. If you have a long list of people to shop for, break up your budget by family member. Don’t spend more than you allow yourself. Many people dip into their 401k or their emergency savings to pad their budget. This is never a good idea!
2. Create a Debt Payoff Plan
These days it’s almost impossible to get through the holidays without using some credit. Make sure before you swipe that card that you know how much you are going to spend. More importantly, make sure you have planned out how long you are going to take to pay it off. Don’t get caught making the minimum payments.
3. Comparison Shop
Use that smart phone for smart holiday shopping! Watch the prices of hot holiday items over time (the more time, the better!). This way you know what they usually cost and don’t get suckered into what claims to be a great deal, but is actually a minimal discount.
4. Consider a Gift Exchange
Not the creative type and have too many people to shop for? Do a gift exchange instead! This way you can focus on a great gift and not have to worry as much about how much you’re spending. And the best part is that everyone gets a gift!
5. Plan for Miscellaneous Costs
This is especially important if you’re a socialite who likes to throw holiday parties and send Christmas cards to your entire family. Party supplies and stamps add up quickly and can leave you with a smaller budget than you thought. Instead of trying to afford everything all at once, try putting aside money each week for holiday costs or buy supplies throughout the weeks leading up to the holidays to prevent financial stress.
6. Start Planning for Next Year
It’s never too early to plan for next year! Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, etc. go on clearance after Christmas. Stock up for a fraction of the price and have it ready for the next holiday season. Open a savings account in January to put aside money for Christmas gifts and save over 12 months. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save in a year!
7. Take Care of Yourself
Most importantly is to remember to take care of yourself. Fatigue can cause you to make bad financial decisions. Additionally, grabbing fast food while Christmas shopping can eat into your budget. Plenty of rest and a healthy diet will go a long way in alleviating symptoms of financial stress.