It’s the Most Wonderful (& Expensive) Time of the Year
The holidays are by far my favorite time of the year. Getting together and making memories with family…decking the halls and enjoying a hot cup of coffee as you watch the snow fall outside…and having an excuse to hit the stores for some shopping therapy and to take advantage of the endless holiday sales. But along with the joy that surrounds the season of giving, the holidays can also take a toll on your finances, causing unwanted stress and anxiety. Below are 5 tips to help you prepare for holiday spending:
- Create a holiday budget
This may sound obvious, but the first tip to keeping your holiday spending in check is to develop a list of people you plan to buy for and the total dollar amount you plan to spend on that person. With all of the holiday hustle and bustle, it is easy to continuously buy for certain people (especially children) when you get caught up in Christmas cheer. So set your limit and stick to it! And don’t forget to monitor your spending using digital banking.
- Shop around
Especially before making a more costly purchase…make sure you do your research when it comes to cost! Compare prices online before making a decision on where to buy your item. There are many websites and apps that can simplify this task such as Google Shopping or mobile apps like ShopSavvy…but also make sure to check out special holiday deals where you could score some big savings on particular days…you would hate to spend more than you have to.
- Try to not use credit
You know the familiar phrase: “Are you interested in saving 15% percent when you open a [store] credit card today?” The extra savings can be taunting…however, you should know the pros and cons when making this decision. Some pros to opening a credit card may include special rewards, extra discounts and the ability to repay at a later date. But unless you pay your balance in full every month, you will most likely end up paying that 15% (and potentially more) in credit card interest. Also know that when you apply for any credit card, a hard inquiry is ran on your credit score which can have a negative impact on your score, especially when you have too many in a short amount of time. So just be sure to weigh your options carefully before jumping on the bandwagon.
- Use coupons and discount codes
Many stores send emails or direct mail pieces around the holidays for extra seasonal savings and some even have mobile apps such as Target’s Cartwheel, that can save you quite a bit of money in the long run. But make sure to keep an eye out on any expiration dates (nothing is worse than getting to the checkout and realizing your Kohl’s Cash expired the day before). If you are shopping online, do a quick Google search as there are several discount sites that may offer an added discount or free shipping just for using a promo code. A few of my go-to’s are RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com. And lastly, if you have rewards cards, make sure you use them! Many people end up spending more money during the last couple months of the year, so make sure you get rewarded for it.
- Start planning for next year
If possible, start buying gifts earlier in the year to decrease the shopping you need to do closer to the holidays. Opening an account, specifically used for holiday shopping can also take a ton of financial stress off your wallet. Kohler Credit Union offers a Christmas Club savings account, which allows members to set money aside throughout the entire year. There is no minimum balance, no service charge and better yet, you earn interest too! The money saved then becomes available on October 1st (not long before we all start rockin’ around the Christmas tree).
I hope these simple tips help you prepare for the holidays financially and put a little more jingle in your pocket. And remember, it is never too early to start thinking about next year… the more you plan now, the less stress you will have when Santa starts making his way to town again come next year.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!