Best Practices for Holiday Spending and Saving
It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . at least until the bills arrive. Don’t let holiday spending lead to post-holiday debt. Control your holiday spending this year by planning ahead and budgeting for gifts, meals, and celebrations. At BTC Bank, your financial wellness is a top priority. We’re here to help our community enjoy the holidays while avoiding financial hangovers. If you’d like to save money or avoid overspending this holiday, follow these tips and tricks from BTC.
Creating a Holiday Budget
No matter what time of year, creating a budget is a great way to stay financially on track. Budgeting is all about allocating your income to cover your expenses and save for the future. A holiday-specific budget requires planning for both the small and large expenditures that pop up this time of year. Once you’ve decided how much money you’re putting towards holiday expenses, consider starting a cash fund for these purchases. By paying cash, you won’t spend more than you’ve planned. Holiday specific expenses can include categories such as:
Start your present planning by identifying everyone in your life that you would like to gift this year. Don’t forget the teachers, babysitters, and party hostesses in your life. Once you’ve made your list, allot a specific dollar amount that can be spent on each recipient. According to We Are Iowa, “The average American spends $1000 on holiday gifts.” Stick to your plan and avoid any impulse buying if you want to stay on budget.
Hosting a large gathering of friends or family can put a strain on your budget. Plan your meal ahead of time and start buying the non-perishables when they are on sale or you see a coupon. To cut back on the expense even more, suggest a pot-luck dinner this year. Not only will you be spared the expense of preparing every dish and providing every drink, you and your guests will benefit from the variety of dishes that arrive.
Whether you are decorating your house in fresh garland or concealing your gifts in that perfect holiday wrapping paper, you’ll need to plan your spending. Holiday decorations can turn into expensive impulse purchases as you reach for that eye-catching ornament or box of sparkling bows. Think about your wrapping and decorating needs and write it into your budget. Set a dollar amount that you are willing to spend this year and stick to it.
Tips For Saving Money Over the Holidays
Cutting back is one way to save money over the holidays -- fewer presents, fewer gatherings, and fewer decorations will certainly spare your wallet. But before you channel your inner Scrooge, consider making some substitutions and adjusting your spending schedule in order to save money. Cheap Christmas ideas don’t have to sacrifice your enjoyment of the holiday season. Here are six tips for saving money over the holidays.
Make Homemade Gifts: For some people on your list, a thoughtful homemade gift may be the perfect fit. Utilize your talents this year or learn a new skill that can result in personal, thoughtful gifts next year. Baking, knitting, and painting are just a few examples of talents that can create inexpensive and well-received gifts during the holidays. Sometimes your gift is simply sharing your talent. Offering music lessons, computer repair, or accounting help can cost you nothing and provide a huge benefit to someone else.
Get Free Shipping: It’s easy to recognize the convenience of holiday shopping online. This year, pair convenience with savings. Many online retailers offer coupon codes if you sign up for emails. Try timing your purchases during sales earlier in the year or Black Friday. The easiest way to save money is to only shop stores that offer free shipping. Many online retailers provide free shipping if you spend a certain dollar amount in their store. When you combine your purchases at one store, you can meet this minimum purchase amount and save on shipping costs. By timing your purchases and planning ahead, you can almost always find an online coupon code to help save money on your purchases.
Lower Your Utility Bills: Winter heating and electric bills can bust your budget. If you’re wondering how to lower your electricity bill in the winter, start by setting your Christmas lights on a timer rather than keeping them on all night. Unplug appliances that you don’t regularly use or before you go out of town. Enjoy the glow of your Christmas lights and use less electricity by letting them serve as your light source in the evenings. Save on heating costs by keeping your house cooler when you have company. The extra body heat and Christmas sweaters will keep you guests comfortable and your bill lower. Utilize your fireplace if you have one. Not only will a fire create ambiance, it’s less expensive to operate than your household heating system.
Downsize “Treat” Expenses: Imagine creating a holiday fund just by purchasing one less latte a week. Cutting back by just $5 a week would result in over $250 in savings over the course of the year. Take a look at your monthly budget and see where you can trim down. Don’t eliminate your treats or luxuries, just see if you can cut back a little. Cutting back a little throughout the year will create a financial security blanket to help ease the stress of holiday spending. At BTC Bank, we offer the Christmas Club savings account to help you do just this. Put away a little money each week or month, and we’ll mail you a check with your account balance on October 31st -- just in time for the holidays!
Start a New Tradition: When planning for financially-smarter holidays, take a look at your yearly traditions. Keep traditions that you can afford, but don’t be afraid to modify old traditions to make them budget-friendly. An easily modified tradition is gift gifting. As people grow older and become financially stable, they often need and want less. If you have a large group of family or friends with whom you traditionally exchange gifts, consider suggesting a Secret Santa gift exchange instead. Each person in the group purchases a gift for one other person. The spirit of giving remains while the financial burden is greatly reduced.
After Christmas Sales: Timing your holiday supply purchases may be the easiest way to save money on next year’s celebrations. Purchase wrapping paper, bows, gift bags, decorations, and Christmas cards right after this year’s holiday. You’ll save 50-75% off the purchase price and get a head start on next year’s to-do list.