The most wonderful time of the year is almost here! The holiday season is filled with family time, joy and much-needed R&R. It is also filled with shopping, travel and other expenses that can add up quickly. According to last month’s National Retail Federation survey, consumers expect to spend an average of $1,007 during the 2018 holiday season – an increase of 4.1 percent from last year.
This additional holiday spending can make you feel like your dollars are stretched a bit too thin during the winter months. But you can change that. Creating a holiday budget, as well as maximizing savings, can help you enjoy the holidays with a fun, festive attitude without depleting your bank account.
Make a list and check it twice
Not having a holiday list is like going to the grocery store hungry. You will buy things you don’t need and spend more than you should. Your list should capture what you need to buy for the holiday season as well as your typical holiday expenses. Include everything: gifts for friends and family, food for parties, travel expenses for tickets or gas, wrapping supplies, postage costs and decorations. Everyone is unique in how they celebrate the holidays, so create a list that reflects how you will spend money and estimate how much each item on the list will cost.
A shopping list can also help track what to buy when items go on sale. Black Friday and Cyber Monday kick off the holiday sale season. Going into these sales with a pre-determined list will help you not overspend on unnecessary gifts just because they are a good deal.
Don’t be blinded by gifts
While everyone loves a good present from loved ones and friends, don’t let gift-giving overshadow the true meaning of the holiday season. Spending all your money on the coolest toys or newest gadgets isn’t always the smartest move. While splurging a little is nice, stay within the confines of your established budget and holiday list.
Spending time making a gift rather than buying one is also an option that can help reduce your holiday spending. A letter, card, delicious baked dish or other handmade item can be a great present for those you care about. Having your children create gifts for grandparents, family and friends is also an enjoyable way to spend time with them and create a unique, thoughtful present that everyone will love.
Utilize online shopping sites
There are thousands of websites dedicated to helping shoppers score the best online deals. Sites such as Brad’s Deals, Deal News, and RetailMeNot can help save shoppers time and money by combining the best sales on the internet into one easy-to-navigate site.
The holidays are a special time, but charging everything to a credit card and starting the new year with a chunk of debt can quickly ruin the festive joy of the season. By establishing a budget, planning gifts and utilizing online sale sites, you can enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank.
Karen Bohn is the executive vice president and consumer delivery director for UMB Bank.