The holiday season is in full swing, and most consumers in the U.S. will spend almost a thousand dollars on gifts, food, decorations, tips, entertaining and travel. But there’s no need to put yourself in a hole financially to enjoy the season. If you plan properly—and stick to your plan—you can have a more enjoyable, regret-free holiday.
Here are six tips for making this holiday season work for you:
1) Make a budget and stick to it.
Before you start spending, take a good look at your financial obligations and decide how much you can reasonably afford to spend on gifts, travel, parties, decorations, Christmas cards, and charitable contributions without incurring extra debt or financial stress. Write it all out—you can see how much you plan to spend and perhaps look for ways to reduce it.
2) Make a gift-buying plan ahead of time.
Using the budget you made as a guideline, try to decide ahead of time what gifts you will buy or make for family, friends, coworkers, teachers, and others. This will help you avoid impulse buys. If impulse buying is your weakness, enlist a friend to go Christmas shopping with you and help you stick to your plan.
If you are really thinking ahead, you can spread out the expense by buying throughout the year, and you may even find better deals than what you would get on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
3) Use credit card reward points.
Have you been accumulating rewards points on any of your credit cards? If so, now would be a great time to redeem them to pay for holiday gifts or travel. Credit card reward plans differ between companies, but they may allow you to redeem points for airline miles, cash vouchers, gift cards or actual gifts. It’s basically like free money. And it can subsidize your holiday expenses—or pay for them entirely, depending on how many points you’ve racked up.
4) Use technology to your advantage.
If you are shopping online, try using one of the many deal websites or web browser plugins to make sure you are getting the best deal for the item you are buying. Finding the right promotional codes for the items you plan to buy could save you a bundle.
If you are shopping in a store (which can help avoid shipping costs and delays), look up prices online ahead of time or while you are at the store. Many stores have price matching policies, and you may even be able to buy something in the store for the same great price you find online.
5) Be a mindful gift-giver.
Try to avoid giving gifts that are a needless expense and may clutter your home or someone else’s home. Many people have bought into the minimalism movement and have found that decluttering their homes reduces stress. If you try to think long-term when you buy gifts for your family and others, you will likely end up buying fewer presents and spending less.
When buying for someone whose tastes you do not know well, opt for something more personal, perhaps handmade or homemade, like a photo book or your famous cookies.
6) Don’t be too emotionally invested.
If you are emotionally invested in the gifts you buy, you will likely overspend. If you’ve made a budget for holiday spending, then remind yourself what financial obligations you have, why you made that budget, and then stick to it. Don’t sacrifice for the “perfect gift” if it puts you in financial distress. Pay what you can afford and enjoy the true spirit of the season.