Consumers spent over 691 billion dollars during 2017's holiday season, plus an additional 138 billion online, according to the National Retail Federation.1 If you're not prepared for the extra expense that often accompanies the holiday season, here are a few ways you can help curb your spending and keep a handle on your holiday finances.
Review last season's spending habits
You might be a little hazy on what you spent this time last year. To refresh your memory, look at your old bank and credit card statements from October, November, and December. Where did your money go? What did you spend on gift-giving, holiday travel or decor? When did you spend it? Where could you cut back? Has your financial situation changed in the last year? The fact is, you can learn a lot by reviewing your past expenditures and creating a budget in order to make wiser spending choices this upcoming holiday season.
Recycle or reuse your holiday decor
If decorating is an important holiday tradition for you, you might be tempted every year to refresh your home's holiday look. However, learning to budget successfully for the holiday season may mean saying no to the new, and reusing last year's décor. If you find that you simply can't fight the decor-buying bug, there is always the world of secondhand holiday decorations. You can save big money by picking up “new to you” decor from thrift/resale stores, or by doing your holiday decor shopping during retailers' post-holiday sales when these items might be marked down by 50 percent or more.
Have a strategy for Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Now that Black Friday bleeds into the Thanksgiving holiday, it can be challenging to stay on top of all those “doorbuster” deals. If you're trying to maximize your holiday budget by taking advantage of sale prices during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, you'll need a game plan. First, go over your favorite store's circulars with a red pen and make a detailed list of what you want and when you can get it. (Some stores stage their deals throughout the weekend.) Then, do your research instead of just throwing yourself into the holiday shopping frenzy. You should also note that some retailers offer the same identical Black Friday deals online as in their stores, so it's possible you can save yourself the headache of venturing out on Black Friday altogether - saving you time, stress, gas and money.
Keep charging to a minimum
If you've reviewed your expenses from the last holiday season, you've probably figured out what you can reasonably afford to spend each year versus what you actually spent last year. No one wants to spend the first few months of the New Year mired in debt and paying off a few weekends of thoughtless holiday spending. Instead, set modest spending limits with loved ones such as your spouse and immediate family members, and be frank with the younger members of your family about what you can and can't manage this year. Don't forget that handcrafted or home baked goodies make thoughtful and well-received gifts. Peruse one of the many cooking websites for a full menu of edible gifts.
If you find that you need additional help on learning how to budget, or you could use a refresher on how credit cards work, be sure to visit the Protective Learning Center for more tips and ideas regarding your finances.