For Mark Roberts’ Use: Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and the leftovers in your refrigerator have finally disappeared, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. We know it’s easy to get carried away at this time of year, and suffer a bit of buyer’s remorse when credit card statements arrive in January. To combat that potential situation, take these steps to keep your spending within budget.
Communicate first. Does it seem like holiday gift-giving seems to spiral more and more out of control each year? That’s a common situation in many families. Have a conversation with your loved ones, set spending or item limits, and perhaps consider the idea of drawing names for a gift exchange.
Other items to consider are travel, food, and parties. Decide how much you can reasonably spend on these, and don’t feel guilty for setting reasonable limits.
Book your flight now. As holidays approach, plane tickets only become more expensive.
Stay in touch with your common sense. Some gift givers become obsessed with keeping everything “equal”, and will often overspend in an attempt to compensate for price differences. Instead, identify a gift for each person on your list, that you know they will appreciate, and you’re done. A five-year-old won’t care that their gift is 20 dollars, compared to their older cousin’s 80-dollar jacket.
Make a plan before you shop. Window shopping is one of the worst mistakes budget-conscious shoppers can make during the holiday season. Make a list of needed gifts, identify the stores you need to visit, and head to the mall with a plan. Do the same when you shop for meals and party supplies.
Don’t linger. Proceed directly to the necessary stores, fulfill your shopping list, and then get out. Lingering only leads to temptation.
Plan meals around sales. Pick up popular holiday items when they’re on sale, and use a list to shop carefully. Avoid the need to rush at the last minute and pick up expensive prepared foods.
Cash in on benefits. Before you go shopping, log into your credit card account online. Many cards offer perks for members, such as 10 or even 20 percent off at certain stores. If you have travel miles or cash-back points, remember to redeem them.
Prepare for next year. If it seems difficult to stick to a budget each year, open a savings account in January. Begin making regular deposits, and by next December you’ll have expenses covered, painlessly.
These tips can help you through the holiday season, but remember to give us a call for more long-term financial planning questions. We can help you make decisions throughout the year, every year, that can lead to a more stable future.