For most of us, the holiday season is among the most anticipated and cherished times of the year — and for good reason. It’s typically filled with time spent with loved ones, the honoring of long-held traditions, and otherwise making treasured memories with family and friends. But the season can also be a significant stressor, primarily because of all the spending it typically requires — and the financial challenges this can create.
But by learning how to budget for Christmas and implementing a well-thought-out strategy for financing Christmas gifts, cash-strapped consumers can take big steps toward eliminating the financial anxiety the holidays can spur. Consider these nine budgeting tips for holiday saving that can help you savor the season — and leave the money-related worries behind:
- Plan your buying budget in advance — One of the most effective money and budgeting tips for the holidays is to create a pre-determined budget that fits your financial situation — and then stick with it. A good way to start is by making a list of the family members and friends you plan to buy gifts for, along with the budget you can comfortably afford to allot to each. Setting a spending limit for each gift recipient in advance can help you keep your budget on track, and having them all listed in one place can help you calculate your total allotted gift spend, then easily adjust up or down as needed.
- Be prepared to shop on special sale days — Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both well known for their doorbuster deals and the extreme savings these can generate. And by having your shopping list ready early, you can keep your eyes open for the best deals being offered by major retailers — and scoop them up if they seem like a fit for any of the gift recipients on your shopping list.
- Avoid last-minute shopping — When you wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping, this can cut down drastically on your procurement options — and your chances to score deals — due to the self-imposed time crunch you’ve created. As a result, you’ll often have to pay whatever price the retailer you’re shopping with is charging … because while other, less-expensive options may be available, you simply won’t have the time to chase them down. Further, if you’re buying your gift online, expedited shipping to ensure on-time arrival can often raise your total costs significantly. But by shopping earlier, you leave all of your purchase (and pricing) possibilities open and within reach.
- Save with your smartphone — Before you take that perfect gift you found on the store shelf to the cash register for checkout, do a quick search on your smartphone to see if the price you’re seeing in the store is a good value. Especially for big-ticket items, doing a quick scan of competitors’ pricing can result in serious savings. And some stores will even match their competitors’ prices, allowing you to secure some savings on the spot.
- Take advantage of budgeting apps — Another great way your smartphone can help you save — and stay on budget — is with Christmas-budgeting apps like Santa’s Bag (available for iOS users) and Christmas Gift List (available for Android users). Not only can such apps help you keep track of your Christmas spending, but by entering your gift ideas for each of your recipients in the app, you can ensure that you always have your gift list with you. This can help you stay organized, plus help you remember that a particular item is a fit for one of your planned recipients when you’re, for example, out and about and spot it on sale.
- Give homemade gifts — While this tactic isn’t likely to be a fit for everyone on your list, some recipients will cherish homemade gifts even more than store-bought ones — as making your own gifts shows that you put in extra time and effort to make them feel special. (Of course, homemade gifts are also a great way to stretch your holiday budget.) Good options to consider here include framed family photos for parents and grandparents, and baked goods such as holiday-themed cookies for neighbors, your kids’ teachers, etc.
- Start saving early — Another powerful holiday/Christmas financial tip is to start preparing — and saving — well before the tree and the lights go up. Consider starting a Christmas-spending fund early in the new year, setting aside a small amount of money each month (or even each paycheck) and designating it for your down-the-road holiday gifts. Even minimal amounts that you’ll barely notice are missing from your week-to-week budget can add up to sizable totals over the course of the full year.
- Focus on experiences and goodwill vs. “stuff” — The kids may have to grow into this one a bit, but as seasoned holiday celebrants know, the true holiday spirit is not about the gifts you give and get during the holidays — it’s about the memories you make with the people you love. To this end, rather than trading gifts with one another, consider opting for memory-making family experiences together. Fun-for-everyone options here include taking a holiday trip together to a destination everyone wants to visit, or pursuing a local adventure or activity together such as visiting a nearby museum, heading out to a ballgame or enjoying a night on the town.
- Shop the post-holiday sales … for next year — Especially when it comes to Christmas-themed gifts and decorations, stores’ prices can drop significantly just after the holidays pass, as they’re eager to get the out-of-date seasonal merchandise off their shelves. In the immediate aftermath of the holiday season, be sure to keep an eye out for great buys on any seasonal merchandise you may need (or that would make a great gift), and store it away for the following year. This can give you a great head start on the next holiday season!
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At Security Finance, we offer a range of fast (usually approved within a single day) and simple-to-secure loans with more flexible options than those typically found at a bank — all without the need for a bank account or a high credit score. Plus, our installment loans follow set terms and offer affordable monthly payment plans, with no balloon payments or prepayment penalties.
Visit securityfinance.com today to learn more about all of our loan options — and to find the one that’s right for you.