Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I love giving (and receiving) gifts. I love shopping and spending time with friends and family. I love the crisp weather and the sense of accomplishment I feel looking back on the past year.
But if you’re like me, you might get a little stressed during this time of year, too. Sometimes we lose sight of what Christmas is all about because we get so caught up in everything else. So before you get out into the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, and before you go and spend your money without a plan, let me offer you my top 5 holiday spending tips.
Seriously, just relax. Remember, this is just stuff. Ask yourself this question: Two years from now, will I even remember what I’m buying? Better yet, will the person you’re buying this item for still be using it? Perspective is your friend. If you don’t get that computer, television or game console, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t get so caught up in shopping and finding a deal that you lose sight of why you’re shopping and giving gifts in the first place.
4 Give a Little Bit
During the Christmas season, it’s not hard to find opportunities to give. Look for organizations that allow you to “adopt” a family or another child and provide gifts for them. Giving is important throughout the year, but it’s especially important during the holidays. The presents and the food and the days off from work are nice. But in the end, Christmas is about reaching out to those in need and providing them with hope.
3 Be Careful With the Sales
Just because a dress is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Should you look for good deals? Absolutely. Should you pay attention to discounts? Of course. But you don’t need to stretch your budget just because something is “on sale.” Use sales to your advantage, but don’t let Christmas sales turn into a reason to justify overspending and using credit cards.
2 Pay Cash
Using cash will help you stay on track with your budget and prevent you from overspending. Once you’ve created your budget, put the amount of cash you plan to spend in an envelope. Once the money is gone, stop spending! Too many people overspend during the holidays and end up deep in debt. If you don’t have enough cash to buy gifts, talk to your friends and family and let them know you have to cut back this year. Don’t make bad decisions that you end up regretting come January!
1 Make a Budget
This seems simple, but it’s so important. Without a budget, it’s easy to hop around from shop to shop at the mall, spending $10 here and $20 there. Before you know it, you’ve spent a few hundred dollars, and you haven’t even bought a present for your husband yet!
With a budget, you’re creating a plan for your money before you spend it. So when it comes to Christmas shopping, you’ll simply decide the total amount of money you want to spend (keeping in mind your other expenses) and then what percentage you’ll spend on each person.
Check out www.mychristmasbudget.com, our free online budgeting tool. It will help you easily create a budget and keep track of your expenses while you shop.
Enjoy the Christmas season. Go out and shop. Go out and have fun with friends and family. You can do all of those things while keeping your financial goals in place. Don’t let the fun of the holiday season turn your January into a season of regret when all the bills start rolling in.