Here we are, just a couple of months from what might be the most expensive time of the year for families: the holidays.
The average American spends more than $1,000 on the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. And many spend more, racking up debt that they have a difficult time paying off. According to Magnify Money’s annual holiday debt survey, Americans with holiday debt added an average of $1,230 in 2018. That’s up from $1,054 the year before.
It certainly is easy to get caught up in the holiday rush—from the cost to travel to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner to the money it takes to make all your kids’ Christmas wishes come true. The holidays, however, don’t have to be so expensive. Here are five ways you can budget for the holidays starting now.
Pick a number—and stick to it
That magic number, of course, is how much money you actually have to spend on the holidays. To figure it out, look at your current savings and your monthly spending. Do you have a little extra cushion already saved for the holidays? Are there expenses that you could trim in the next two months, such as meals out, movie theater tickets or new clothes purchases, so you can save more?
Then, take a hard look at your holiday plans. Will you travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Do you always buy tickets to your community’s big holiday light show?
Tally it all up to come up with your number. Once you have it, commit to a budget for the holidays and make a deal with yourself that you won’t spend any more than your limit. (And, remember, you can always spend less!)
Decide on your gift giving plan
List all the people you usually shop for during the holidays and decide if there’s anybody you can take off the list. Your kids, partner, parents and siblings may be shoo-ins. You probably don’t need to give gifts to all your second cousins and former neighbors.
Give more for less
Young kids won’t care if their new toy car race track comes from a big box store—or a thrift store. As long as it’s new to them, they’ll be thrilled with their gift. Shopping thrift stores and consignment sales and looking for deals and discounts is a great way to cut your holiday costs. So is giving homemade items, such as baked goods or handcrafted ornaments. Country Living has 85 DIY gift ideas.
Be ready to say no
Kids, especially, can be relentless during the holidays with their wants and “needs.” As their Christmas wish lists grow from 10 items to 10 pages, be ready to set their expectations. In fact, as you budget for the holidays, this might be the perfect time to launch into some important talks about money and spending.
Find ways to celebrate without spending
Sure, it’s fun to get tickets for the big light show, splurge on fancy hot chocolates at the coffee shop and invest in special holiday portraits of the kids in their Christmas finest. But, remember, the holidays don’t need to be a big production.
In fact, for many, the memories they make during cozy nights decorating cookies or sipping hot chocolate at home while watching a favorite Christmas movie are what the holidays are all about. And those experiences are priceless (and affordable).
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today
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