I remember the very first paycheck I received, I was a young 16 years of age and I wanted to spend all my hard earned money on gifts for my family. Little did I know that the $180 I had just earned working the past two weeks wasn’t going to get me very far – nevertheless, I spent my entire paycheck on small gifts to show my family just how much I appreciated them. I was excited that for the very first time in my life, I was buying them gifts with the money I had earned. Who would have known that being generous would be a quality I would have to learn to tone down a bit.
Being too generous does exist, and can get us in trouble if we aren’t careful with how much we are spending – especially during the holiday season. We are approaching what is the largest gift-giving season which means the average American is spending close to $983 for gifts, according to a recent study conducted by the American Research Group. This of course does not count additional expenses such as; food, holiday cards and extras when it comes to attending the various holiday events.
So how will you prepare for the additional expense?
Keep your list small.
If we could afford to gift everyone this holiday season that would be great, but the reality is that we should not be shopping for every single person we know. Hank Coleman of Money Q&A says, “If you want to save money this holiday season, do what Santa does. Make a list and check it twice. But, unlike Santa, keep your list small. We love to give gifts. We see stuff in stores all the time that would be perfect for our friends and extended family. But, if you want to save money, cut your list down to the bare essential loved ones. Give everyone else a Christmas card.”
I personally love the idea of only shopping for children. With so many little ones, it makes it easier to plan and budget accordingly. What about teacher gifts? Have kids get creative and make something memorable. Ryan Guina of The Military Wallet adds, “A gift exchange or Secret Santa is a great way to help reduce spending. This way you can still give and receive gifts, but you don't have to buy a gift for everyone in the group. This can be very fun in an office environment or with family.”
Setting a solid budget.
Don’t wait until you have started shopping to create a budget for the additional expenses. Ryan Guina says, “Try to set a general budget for family members, and then add a little on top for extra expenses that might arise, such as last minute gifts, parties, or travel.”
A good way to setup a budget that my family and I have found helpful was to list every single aspect of the holiday season; gifts, travel, food, decorations. We then divide the budget into each category and set a total amount we want to spend per category. Many times the numbers go over, so we just erase and either remove something or reduce the cost per category.
Track your spending.
We can beat to death the topic of a budget, but the truth is, you will mostly likely fall backwards if you start keeping track of your spending habits without having a budget. So once you get what you want to spend per person set, keep track to make sure you are staying true to your numbers.
Know your deals.
Once you have the financials in order, it’s time to get out and shop. However, are you being smart with what you are purchasing? Are you seeking prices online and checking sale flyers? Take advantage of holiday sales, but ensure you are doing your research before buying at what seems to be a “great deal”. Retailers are known for hiking up the retail price so that it seems as though you really are saving money. Be smart and check on the manufacturer website to see how much something costs at full retail before falling for that “doorbuster” sale.
Avoid charging gifts.
Part of why you are creating a budget to begin with is so that you can get away from charging gifts as much as you can, and use cash. Every charge and interest fee adds up, and it’s all jolly until the credit cards statements roll around in January. If you need to charge a larger purchase, consider using a card with the lowest interest, and one that offers cashback.
What tips help you to not overspend during the holiday season? Share with us in the comments below.
About the blogger: Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, published author and branding expert. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband and two children.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.