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How to Stay on Budget During the Holidays

By: iTHINK Financial | Dec 01, 2019

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, fireside s’mores—and the inevitable holiday expenses. As the temperatures drop and string lights make their way on to every house on the block, the pressure for last-minute holiday shopping and party planning start to settle in quickly. While the festive spirit outshines the financial stress that comes with it, there are ways to lessen the impact of holiday expenses so you can put your focus on the finer things this season. 

Track Your Spending and Stick to Your Budget

First and foremost, your holiday spending is what you make it to be. It can be as little or as high of your choosing, but it starts with solidifying a budget and sticking to it. So, how do you decide your limit and track your spending? It starts with a piece of paper, a pencil and a list of every expense your holiday season may ring in. This could include travel expenses, holiday events, charitable donations and, of course, the piling gift expenses. 

Detailing your budget down to the core can also help give you a better idea of your spending and where it’s going. For example, some people on your gift list may earn a bigger share of your budget than others. A visual of how much money you are allotting for each person’s gift can also help you better stick to your holiday budget. 

Shop Early and Pace Yourself

Slow and steady wins the race. While it’s easier said than done, getting a head start on your holiday shopping can spare you the hole in your wallet by spacing out your purchases. A great starting point would be two months in advance, designating each week for a few things on your holiday check list. Stay attentive to pre-holiday sales, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials for the best deals big-ticket items. 

One of the best times to plan out your budget is right after the holiday season. How much did you spend total? What did you allot your money to? Are there places you can cut back? The answer to these questions will help you budget accordingly for the following year. 

Cut Back on Personal Spending

The season of giving means it’s time to cut down on personal spending and make room for more gifting. As more expenses come into play, more personal spending should shy away—even if that means cutting back on daily pumpkin spice latte purchases or holding off on the pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing lately. 

It’s easy to forget that your holiday budget is there to help you stay in line with your financial goal for the month. To stay on track, consider sparing small purchases that tend to add up quickly over the month. This could be something as small as skipping your morning coffee run in exchange for homemade coffee, or as big as cutting all eating-out expenses for the whole month of December. 

Host a Potluck

Now that you have gift shopping under your belt, it’s time to think about your annual get-together. If you’re the lucky host this year, you understand that visits from extended family can quickly turn a 10-person dinner party to 30. Factor in prepping, cooking, cleaning and decorating for the big event, and your dinner party quickly racks up in both time and money.

Put a twist on your event this year by hosting a holiday potluck. Prep the main dish and let your guests handle the rest. A potluck not only gets everyone involved with their own take on sides, desserts, appetizers and drinks, but it also relieves the added stress of prepping a feast. 

In the midst of financing your festivities, don’t lose sight of what the holidays are really about. By staying in line with your budget and getting a head start on your shopping excursions, you can relieve the stress of last-minute planning and put your attention on what really matters during the holidays—quality time with your loved ones. 

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