The holiday season is a happy time of year for spending time with the ones we love and trying to focus on the things that are important to us. Time seems to speed up and slow down all at once. It’s a chance for us to notice the little things while remembering to appreciate friends and family. But it can also be a stressful time where the days fly by, and before you know it there’s a new year in front of us.
Reducing stress over the holidays takes some forethought. That means planning for trips and scheduling your time, but most importantly it means making a budget. Without one, holiday spending can get out of control fast. It’s not something most of us want to think about, but assessing your spending and budgeting appropriately can leave you with more quality time with the ones you love.
Start Budgeting Early
It may seem like the holidays are a lifetime away, but the truth is they are right around the corner. Everyone spends more money during the holidays than any other time of the year, so setting a budget during the fall (or even earlier) is critical.
When most people think about budgeting for the holidays, they think about the Christmas presents they need to buy. But in reality, there is so much more you need to consider. While planning for gifts is a good start, you might also need to think about travelling including gas, lodging, and other expenses. If you’re hosting a party, you need to think about the cost of food, drinks, and other expenses. Think about every potential cost involved of your holiday spending and even consider adding a 10% buffer in case something unexpected comes up.
Once you have a budget, it’s time to make a plan.
Buy Gifts Early and Avoid the Mall
The first advice you’ll probably get from people about staying on budget during the holidays is to shop on Black Friday. But with some planning and know-how, you can avoid the long lines out in the cold, middle of the night. You don’t even have to worry about being trampled by a herd of shoppers running into that big box outlet. There are plenty of deals to be had as long as you get your shopping started a little early.
Online shopping is a great way to save money. Not only can you find steep discounts, but in many cases you can avoid paying sales tax. Look for deals online at places like Amazon, eBay, or direct from retailers you love. Wait for them to have online sales, take advantage of promo codes, and try to find deals with free shipping. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to stay in budget while shopping for holiday gifts. And the best part is, you can shop right in your living room.
Throw a Budget Holiday Party
Whether you’re throwing a Christmas party for your friends and family or it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving, having guests over for the holidays can quickly drain your wallet. Instead of buying pre-made or pre-cooked items, try cooking from scratch. It’s not as hard as it sounds and while it takes a little more time, homemade food tends to taste a lot better. If you aren’t that handy in the kitchen, try simple things like dips and homemade dressings. There are plenty of great recipes for all your favorite foods that you can find for free online.
If you’re going to serve alcohol at a party, don’t buy all the booze yourself. Most people understand how expensive that can get and your budget can quickly double if you carry all the weight yourself. Make an inexpensive punch for everyone to share and ask guests to bring something extra. If you do want to provide some extra options, avoid top shelf liquor and stick to a few bottles of wine for your guests. Trader Joe’s is a great place to shop for inexpensive but delicious bottles of your favorite red or white.
To Grandma’s House on a Budget
Budgeting for travel can be difficult because variables are always changing. Gas, flights, and hotel costs change are all unpredictable. A good rule of thumb is to book your air and lodging early. If you have some flexibility when you’ll be travelling, try booking your flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Those are the least busy days of the week for flying. Also, because no one wants to get out of bed, the earliest flights tend to be less expensive. If you need a place to stay, consider Airbnb instead of a hotel. You can find an entire apartment or house and it’s usually less than the average hotel.
While it certainly can be tempting to whip out your wallet frequently throughout the holiday season, take the time to make a budget — and be sure to stick to it.
If you need some last minute help, consider the Golden Valley Lending payday loans alternative.