For many families, the holiday season is the most expensive time of year. Americans spent over $707 billion during the 2018 holidays, according to the National Retail Federation, and it would be no surprise for spending to increase in 2019.
“It is important to ensure you are spending wisely and not turning the new year into a time of new debt,” says Michael McAuliffe, president of Family Credit Management, a nonprofit credit-counseling agency.
To spend sensibly and with good cheer this season, consider these tips from McAuliffe and the experts at Family Credit Management.
Set a budget.
While you should be following a budget throughout the year, it’s important to have a holiday-specific budget too. Figure out how much you are able to spend on each person’s gift and stick to it. This will help you consider those big-ticket items more seriously and make it possible for you to stay on track.
With a tight budget, consider using last year’s decorations or making homemade ones as a fun, money-saving project to do with the whole family. While there’s no real need to buy new, expensive decorations every year, if you are so inclined, don’t forget to include that in your holiday budget.
Think about shipping.
Online deals might look great, and many times they are. Other times, they’re not really deals at all because of shipping costs.
If you are going to shop online, make sure to keep an eye out for free-shipping days offered by many retailers and to factor in shipping, when necessary, into your overall spending plan.
Don’t shop because you’re “supposed” to.
Just because it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday doesn’t mean you have to shop. While there are some good deals offered during these events, just as frequently, the deals are not superspecial once you look at the normal price and product reviews.
Unfortunately, marketing teams are great at knowing how to access wallets through product placement and signage, and shopping during these times will increase impulse spending and make it much harder to stick to a holiday budget.
Use apps to price-check.
Technology is great! There are many apps out there to price-check items while you’re shopping, so you can make sure you are getting the best deal. Some retail stores will even adjust the price in-store when you have found a better deal online.
Leave the credit cards at home.
Put your holiday budget on a prepaid debit card or gift card that you can use anywhere. Going shopping with only that card will help ensure that you don’t spend more than your budgeted amount. Not only will it help you stay within budget, but it will also help your purchase stay interest-free.
For free money-saving and budget tips that you can use year-round, visit familycredit.org/resources.
Don’t let the holidays take a toll on your 2020 finances. A few key strategies can help you celebrate within budget.