Summer was the time to get away, but now we’re back to school, college, and work. Before we know it, Thanksgiving will be over and the holidays will be nipping at our heels. The AICPA reports that 6 in 10 US adults report the year-end holiday season is their most stressful time of year. This is mainly because of the high cost, but we can do a few things starting now that will reduce our stress significantly a few months down the line.
1. How Much Are You Going to Spend – Set the budget for your entire list before setting foot in a store or sitting in front of the computer to shop. Make sure to include all of your gift giving and things like postage for holiday cards and home decorations in the budget. It’s easy to go overboard, but starting with a good number and sticking to it is vital.
2. Make a List: Check it Twice – Who do you plan to buy for this year? Make sure you include everyone that’s going to receive a gift and add a dollar amount each one. Refer to your budget so you don’t go over your spending limit!
3. Start Saving Now – Summer has just ended, but the holiday season is right around the corner. Since you already know your budget, begin taking a portion of your paycheck out each pay period and stashing it away to cover your holiday spending. Pinching a few pennies now will save you a bundle of stress after the holidays when the credit card statements are delivered.
4. Steer Clear of the Credit Cards – It’s easy to turn to your credit cards to cover the cost of holiday shopping, but a cash-only holiday is far cheaper because you’ll save all of the credit card interest. If you only take out the amount of cash you’ve budgeted, it will be clear when you’re at your limit. Don’t go over!
5. Allow Enough Time – Running out at the last minute often means you’ll be paying top dollar for your gifts. Budgeting your time, as well as your money is key to a successful holiday season. There’s no sense in waiting until the last minute when you know exactly when the holidays are coming.
6. Gift Your Skills – What are you good at? Do you cook? Can you build something? Are you great at building a website or designing a room? Many skills are a great alternative to buying another gift card for a loved one or adding a neighbor that wasn’t originally in the budget. It’s a great way to stretch your dollars and could end up bringing you more business down the line!
7. Me, Me, ME! – If you put yourself on your shopping list, it’ll give you a little bit of freedom to make a splurge purchase for yourself while doing your shopping. We all know the feeling when we’re really buying a gift for ourselves when we’re buying for someone else. Make it official and let yourself off the hook!
8. Get a Grip, Kiddos – If your kids are toy crazy, set reasonable expectations and financial boundaries. If they’re young, have them write a wish list that prioritizes what they want. If they’re older, set some financial boundaries and use the opportunity to talk about responsible spending. Either way, your child still has the opportunity to choose but realizes there are limits.
9. Make it Mean Something – At a point, we have most of what we need. Thoughtful gifts mean a lot to someone and often cost a lot less than showy, expensive gifts. Words and gestures mean more than “stuff” and stuff just piles up.
10. Remember Why You’re Celebrating – No matter what holiday you’re celebrating, the holiday’s particular message can easily be lost with all the stress and checklists. Make sure to take a step back and remember why you’re celebrating in the first place. Rather than stressing in the weeks leading up to the holidays, get it all done early and spend the newly free time with family and friends.