If you’re stressed and money is a worry this holiday season, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 61% of Americans worry about extra spending during the holidays. Last year, 1 in 3 consumers went into debt after the holidays. Half of those consumers took 3 months to pay their holiday spending back, while others needed 5 months to pay it back.
Keep reading to find out a few ways you can financially prepare this year, and soften the blow to your budget.
Be sure to set a strict holiday budget
The first thing you want to do, is see if you can figure out how much you spent last year during the holidays and look at the gifts, food, and decorations you bought. Did your shopping last year leave you financially strapped and did it take multiple months to pay off? If so, you’ll want to rethink this year’s spending.
Create a gift idea list and approximate costs for this year. If you can’t afford the grand total on your monthly income after your necessities are paid (housing, utilities, food, gas, etc.) you will need to reconfigure your list. You also don’t want to stray from your list, once it’s done it needs to be done – don’t keep spending money on extra items.
Think of ways you might be able to cut back this year – do you really need to buy gifts for every person in your family or for all your friends? Perhaps in a larger family or a group of friends you can suggest doing a Secret Santa with an affordable purchase limit. This way you’re only buying one gift instead of multiple. In your group of friends, can you skip giving each other gifts and just go out to dinner or have a potluck meal together at someone’s home instead? These are all ways to keep your holiday spending budget down.
Take a look at your regular spending habits
In November and December you might need to cut back on your regular entertainment or dining out expenses in order to put those funds toward holiday gifts. How often do you go out to eat, stop at the nearest drive thru for a seasonal coffee, or use delivery services like DoorDash? These purchases can really add up. Try to cut back or cut them out altogether during the holiday season, and use that money toward your gift list instead.
The same goes for other entertainment expenses. Take a look at your subscription and streaming services – how many services are you paying for and are you even using them during such a busy time of year? Maybe pausing them for a month or two will pay for another gift on your shopping list.
Add to your monthly income
Do you have any extra availability on nights or weekends to pick up a part-time job for the holidays? Depending upon where you work, you may even gain an employee discount to help you save a little on gifts you can buy. You’d also be able to bring in additional income to help you afford holiday expenses.
Do your research on sales and discounts
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, but many retailers will also offer sales and promotions all season long. Be sure to research the retailers you plan to purchase from this year, follow them on social media and sign up for their emails. A lot of times, signing up for emails or texts gets you a first-time enrollment discount too. If you know you’d like to purchase gifts from a particular store, check your email in the morning and see if they have any promotions, coupons, or discounts going on that day.
Don’t forget your rewards credit card
Do you have a rewards credit card that offers cash back for purchases during the year or offers merchandise and gift cards? Login to your account before you start shopping for gifts. If you have money you can redeem for cash back, you can use these funds to buy gifts on your list. If your rewards credit card has a merchandise catalog you can redeem points earned for or merchant gift cards, cash in and you might be able to check some more off your gift list!
Our First Financial Cash Plus Cards offer cash back, merchandise, retailer gift cards, travel experiences and more – through uChoose Rewards. Learn more and apply today!**
Plan ahead for next year
It’s never too early to start saving money. If you don’t want to feel stressed about the holidays again next year, look for ways you can start saving now. For instance, at First Financial we have a Holiday Savings Account which can help you save for all your holiday expenses during the year. This account will allow you to have money deducted from each of your paychecks and sent to your Holiday Savings Account. Come next October, it will have accrued for you all year long and be available for you to use.
Don’t let the holiday season become stressful or a drain on your budget. With careful planning and saving – you’ll find you can afford the extra expenses this time of year often brings, and help spread some holiday cheer at the same time!
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*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 program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details. Some restrictions apply, contact the Credit Union for more information.
**APR varies up to 18% for the Visa® Cash Plus Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees of 3% or $10, whichever is greater; Late Payment Fee of $29, $10 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of $29. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, 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/loan.