The holidays are my favorite time of year—bonding with family, watching holiday movies and eating way too much food. It’s a time to reflect and to start thinking ahead to the new year. For many, it’s also a time for overspending, which can lead to haunting credit card bills. According to PwC’s 2018 Holiday Outlook, consumers plan to spend $1,250 this year on holiday gifts, travel, and entertainment, which is more than the majority of Americans have in their savings account.
Have no fear; I have a holiday gift for you—a gift that I hope will save you some heartache in January and help you avoid the Ghost of Holidays Past. Here are my own tried-and-true financial tips to help you avoid overspending:
Tip 1: Create a reasonable plan and stick to it. Make a seasonal spending budget, have a shopping strategy, comparison shop online, and only buy things that are on your list. Set expectations with family and friends—especially your children. Within your budget, be sure to account for gifts, food, decorations and travel. If you use a credit card for spending, pay the balance in full as soon as the bill comes, or at least within a month or two to avoid excessive interest charges.
Stay on Track this Holiday Season.
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Tip 2: Spending time with family is worth more than anything you can buy. Don’t feel pressured to buy gifts for everyone or feel guilty if you don’t. Instead, make time to be with family. Time is something we can’t get back and is worth more than gold.
Tip 3: Consider making gifts. Some of the best gifts I have ever received were homemade. The gifts someone put their time, effort and heart into are still hanging on my wall or displayed somewhere in the house. These are the gifts that make me smile.
Tip 4: Take advantage of deals, but be sure they are legit. Cybercrime is on the rise during the holiday months and fraudsters will use phishing emails to prey on their next victim. Fraudsters usually drive a sense of urgency, getting you to click before you think about it. This could be something as appealing as ‘click here for your free gift card’ or ‘follow your package being delivered here.’ Everyone is interested in getting a good deal, but stay alert as dealing with identity theft can cost you time and money.
Tip 5: Start planning for next year. Build the amount you expect to spend for the holidays into your budget. Set aside an amount each week/pay period/month that can be used when the next holiday season rolls around. Just think, $10 a week would add up to $520 over the course of a year. That’s close to half of what the average consumer is expecting to spend.
Make this holiday season enjoyable and without regret. These five tips are my gift to you. On behalf of USAA, I want to wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
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