While the holiday season can bring a lot of joy, it can do a lot of damage to your wallet. Buying gifts for family and friends isn’t a cheap endeavor. And with inflation, it seems everything is more expensive than it was a year ago.
If you’re feeling anxious about holiday shopping this year, you’re not alone. The good news is, there are things you can do to make sure you’re financially prepared. In this article, we share five tips that will help you — and your bank account — survive the holiday shopping season.
1. Start Saving Immediately
Saving money is important regardless of what month it is. However, to prepare yourself for all the extra holiday spending, saving money right now is essential. Luckily, there are simple ways you can do that.
One of the best ways to save is to create a budget (or reassess the budget you already have). Take a look at your current income and expenses and find ways you can cut back and allocate more to your savings account.
For instance, what if you made your coffee instead of buying it at Starbucks? What if you cooked more dinners at home instead of always eating out? You may think these changes are too small to make a difference, but they add up over time.
There are also apps you can use to help you save. Some banks, in particular, will link your debit card to your savings and round up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar. The difference is then automatically transferred to your savings account. With this feature, you don’t have to think twice about putting money aside for holiday shopping.
2. Pay With Cash
A great way to avoid overspending is to use cash instead of your credit card. While there are many benefits to using credit cards, like earning rewards, they can do serious damage to your financial standing. Credit cards let you buy now and pay later. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending money you can’t readily pay back, which can lead to burdensome debt.
Multiple studies have found that people spend more money when using a credit card rather than cash. This is partly due to the fact that, with cash, you only have access to money you actually have. Cash is also physical. Unlike paying with a card, you’ll actually see your money dwindling, which can make you a more mindful spender.
Last year, an increasing number of shoppers acquired holiday debt to the tune of $1,249 on average. To keep yourself on a budget this year, do your best to use cash whenever possible.
3. Learn the Truth About Sales
Black Friday — ever heard of it? It’s arguably one of the busiest shopping days ever. Held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, it marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In celebration of that fact, retailers offer promotions and often open as early as midnight. And while you may plan to knock out most of your holiday shopping on this day, that might not be a good idea.
It turns out Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best day for all sales. Sure, you might find a good deal on a TV, but that doesn’t mean you’ll save on every purchase. That’s why it’s important to avoid getting caught up in the illusion of Black Friday. Make sure you’re still being conscious of what you’re spending, and compare prices to ensure you’re actually getting the best deal.
Keep in mind that many retailers run sales before the holiday season even gets started. Ever heard of “Christmas in July?” That’s when stores trot out unsold items from the previous holiday season and sell them at discounted rates to attract customers. If you’re interested in saving money on Christmas baubles, plan to start next year’s shopping during the summer.
4. Have a Strategy
How you shop can make or break your holiday spending goals. Are you a spontaneous shopper? Do you make purchases on a whim, or do you spend time thinking before putting your debit card down? The key to saving money is having a strategy. And one of the best strategies is making a list before even leaving your house.
The truth is, stores are designed to make you spend money. Items are laid out in a certain way to draw consumers in. If you aren’t careful, you can get swept up and end up buying things you don’t need. Take time to write down what you’re shopping for this holiday season. Ideally, this will keep you from overindulging. It can also help you get in and out of stores quicker, so you aren’t spending all day at the mall.
Another benefit to making a list is it forces you to do your homework early. Rather than walking into a store and buying whatever you see, you’ll know what you want to buy everyone on your list.
5. Don’t Confuse Expense With Thoughtfulness
One of the best ways to save money on holiday shopping is to set boundaries around gift-giving. Some people are under the impression they have to spend tons of money to show people they’re appreciated. But that’s not true. Some of the best gifts don’t cost money, and if they do, it needn’t be a lot.
This holiday season, spend some time brainstorming homemade gifts. For instance, you could make ornaments for your family members or embellish a picture frame. If you’re crafty, you could knit scarves or mittens. There are many different do-it-yourself options available. If you need DIY ideas, check out Pinterest or Google.
Thrift stores are also great places to shop for holiday gifts. They are a goldmine for one-of-a-kind gifts you probably won’t find in other places. Online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and eBay are also worth checking out if you want unique and inexpensive presents.
Don’t let holiday shopping stress you out or cause you to acquire debt. Instead, use the tips above to keep yourself from overspending so you can truly enjoy the holiday season.