Holiday shopping is officially in full swing – but that certainly doesn’t mean you need to go broke over it. Here are just a few financial tips to whip your budget into shape for the holidays without sacrificing gift giving or your other financial goals.
Reflect on last year. If last year’s shopping season was a budget-busting disaster, then now is the time to learn from your mistakes. Take a look at your holiday bills from a year ago and think about whether your financial situation has improved or worsened since then. Be honest with yourself. Are you really up for a repeat spending performance this year? If not, start thinking about how much you can realistically afford to spend, and make sure it’s reflected in your new holiday budget.
Set a dollar amount. And stick to it! While holiday spending often feels essential, it’s easy to get swept away in the shopping frenzy and end up spending more than you can afford. So before you start shopping, use this opportunity to develop a realistic budget where you designate a specific dollar amount for each item or person on your list. Easily create, manage, and stick to your budget using a free online personal finance management tool that can also help you manage your money on the go.
Track receipts. You’ll need them for returns, price adjustments, and to compare against your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will keep you honest and help you plan better for future holiday shopping too. Tally the receipts from all holiday expenses, including gifts, postage, meals, entertainment, and decorations. Assess where you’ve spent and once you’ve completed your shopping list, stop shopping! More mall or web time can amount to more spending.
Limit your use of plastic. Unless you know you’re good about paying off your credit card balances in full each and every month, leave the plastic at home. Only bring cash you’ve set aside for holiday shopping to avoid temptations for unnecessary purchases. If you must use credit this year and know you won’t be able to pay everything off right away, try this approach: Don’t rely solely on credit; make a plan in which you pay your purchases off completely within two to three months; and limit your credit card use to the card in your wallet with the lowest interest rate.
Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*
No emotional purchases. Let’s face it, if you’re stressed out, you might make some unnecessary purchases. Take the emotions out of your holiday shopping, and stick to your original holiday budget. Having your budget in hand and a game plan for who you are buying for and what you want to buy, can help make the daunting task of shopping a bit more manageable. It’s also worth doing a little online research and comparison shopping before leaving the house, so you don’t get caught up on the hype of the holiday sales.
So why not take a different approach this year? By following some of these tips ahead of time you’ll be able to balance your gift giving and still avoid that holiday debt hangover.
To save for holiday shopping next year, check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!**
- Open at any time
- No minimum balance requirements
- Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
- Accounts automatically renew each year
- Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
- Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account
*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.
**A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.
Holly Perez of Money.usnews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/11/20/5-ways-to-whip-your-budget-into-shape-for-the-holidays