It’s that time of year again—dust off your red Santa suit and heavy black boots in preparation for the season of giving. Unfortunately, we don’t all have a workshop full of elves to make our gifts, but budgeting out your gift expenses may help you avoid breaking the bank.
Gift shopping can be a daunting task. The stress of holiday spending can cloud your thoughts from the real reason for the giving season. Once the initial excitement of feasting on endless baked goods and spending quality time with loved ones has simmered down, you’re left with the inevitable question—how do I avoid overspending while aiming for the best gifts this year?
Budget Out Your Total Spending
It may seem like an obvious first step to staying on track, but taking the time to lay your budget out on paper (or an Excel spreadsheet) can give you a clear visual on how to limit your spending for each gift.
Remember, your holiday budget doesn’t replace your existing, year-round financial responsibilities, such as rent, gas and groceries. Be sure to keep your existing budget in mind while making your seasonal budget. This can help you create a clear layout of how much money to set aside for your holiday shopping for the month. It will also give you the advantage of understanding your limits and setting a realistic goal.
Once you have an idea of your existing budget, it’s time to plan your holiday spending. Break it down to an average of how much you’re willing to spend on each person.
Also, keep in mind there are miscellaneous expenses that don’t make it on the shopping list, such as travel expenses and holiday parties. Factor these in from the get-go to keep your budget accurate.
Use an App to Track Spending
Creating a spreadsheet may give you a visual layout of your overall budget, but tracking your spending can be done in the palm of your hands. Budgeting apps let you stay on track while you’re on the go, and there are plenty around to choose from.
Mint is an all-encompassing, free app that allows you to create a budget, track your spending and stay cautious about your financial decisions. Similarly, the Wally app helps you balance your income and expenses, while achieving your financial goals. If you’re looking for an app to easily accumulate savings, Acorns invests your spare change from daily purchases.
Explore Your Creativity
Gifts don’t always have to come prepackaged and shipped from the store. Sometimes, the most thoughtful gifts are the ones that are crafted by hand. Leave it to the innovative crafters of Pinterest to find some of the best DIY, or do it yourself, gift ideas around. Whether you’re crafting custom coasters for your mother or a bath soap set for a coworker, there is a DIY option for everyone on your list.
If you’re not lucky enough to carry crafty hands, don’t worry. Something as easy as baked goods can be enough to fill someone’s heart—and their belly.
Scout Out Sales
Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials are a great way to get the most bang for your buck at the start of the holiday season. Kick off your holiday shopping at stores that extend their hours to the peak of dawn in anticipation for the best deals of the year. Be sure to browse catalogs prior to your Black Friday excursion so you know exactly what to target during your shopping trip!
As hard as it is to admit, many of us fall behind on gift preparations. Once the festivities come to a halt at the end of December, holiday budgeting becomes an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality until the season creeps up again.
But the start of a new year is the start of new year resolutions, so it’s the perfect time to make your holiday savings part of your goals. Setting up a separate savings account as early as January could be the simplest solution for those stressful shopping trips in the late months of the year. Setting aside as little as $50 a month can rack up to $600 in just a year.
Holiday shopping may not only affect your energy, but also your wallet. Whether your budget planning starts in early January or late November, these preparations can save you from overspending this holiday season.