Holiday financial stress can easily be avoided if you create a budget for the season and stick to it. A little planning can help you shop responsibly and enjoy the indulgences that make this time of year so special.
Start by finding affordable gift ideas. And if you still haven’t booked your flight, you can save money on last-minute flights. But to make sure you can get everything on your Christmas list, follow these holiday budget tips.
Decide on a dollar amount
U.S. consumers will spend an average of $805.65 on holiday expenses, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey. Are you willing to spend more than $800? Figure out what you can afford and stick to that spending limit.
Keep in mind that your holiday budget covers more than just gifts. Airline tickets, travel costs, and holiday-related food, beverage and clothing purchases also cost money. Shipping gifts can also become a significant expense. Consider all holiday spending in your budget to ensure your funds don’t run out before you’ve bought gifts for important friends and family.
Create a gift list
Once you’ve determined the amount you’re willing to spend, make a list of every person for whom you’re buying a holiday gift. Divide your dollar amount by the number of people on your list to determine the average amount you can spend on each gift.
You’ll probably buy gifts that cost more than your average for some special people on your list. But it’s important to set a spending limit and honor it. That might mean that if you find the perfect gift for someone who wasn’t on your original list, you skip it.
Look for freebies
Perhaps you’re determined to treat someone on your list to a big-ticket item, such as new headphones. A strategic shopper can find deals along with a free bonus (such as a gift card) that can then be used as a separate gift for someone else on your list.
Here are a few offers for gift cards with your purchase:
- Apple is offering a free $60 iTunes gift card with the purchase of eligible Beats headphones or Beats speakers (in Apple stores or at Apple.com through Dec. 28).
- Target.com is offering free gift cards of up to $40 with the purchase of Keurig coffee makers in an online-only deal. Target has numerous other gift card deals; check Target’s current promotions page for all the deals and their expiration dates.
- There are also numerous restaurants offering free gift cards with the purchase of another gift card this holiday season.
Consider group gifts
Keep in mind that your holiday budget goes further the fewer gifts there are on the list. Rather than be a Scrooge and eliminate people from the list, look for opportunities to give a group gift to two or more recipients. A group of nieces or nephews might all be happy sharing a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One game console or a popular video game. A married couple might be thrilled sharing one of the best robot vacuums of 2015.
Check in on your budget
Be aware of the status of your gift list and budget throughout the holiday shopping season. You can keep a paper list in a notebook, maintain a list on your phone, or even use a spreadsheet app that adds up your spending for you.
It’s important to refer to and update this list often so you’ll know immediately if you’ve gone over budget and be able to trim your expenses to make up for it. When you need to cut back on gift-giving expenses, look for deals on popular gifts, consider daily deals or seek out coupons.
As with any spending plan, you should over-budget for holiday shopping instead of making optimistic financial projections. Give yourself some wiggle room for cost overruns. If you set a holiday budget and stick to it, you’ll have a holly, jolly Christmas, avoid unnecessary debt and enjoy financial benefits that last well into a happy new year.
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