In about five seconds, all of the Halloween costumes and decor will be whisked off to the clearance aisle and stores will become one big explosion of red and green. Wasn’t it just summer?
The holidays sneak up on us faster than the sudden emergence of pumpkin spice in September so it’s important to start planning for them now.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they fail to budget properly for the holidays.
And for a lot of people, this means going into debt. Consumers who went into debt last holiday season racked up $1,054 in new debt on average.
The majority of this overspending is due to gifts. While it’s nice to give, most of the people you love wouldn’t want you to go into debt because of them.
Here are a few tips to prepare for the holiday season so that you can close out 2018 with some financial success instead of money stress.
1) Start saving early.
The average American spends nearly $1,000 on holiday shopping. For most people, that’s a significant chunk -- if not all -- of what’s left over after you pay your monthly bills. That means, if you wait until December to start shopping you are much more likely to spend money you don’t have.
Instead, start saving now. Set up a separate savings account specifically for your holiday fund. That way you won’t be tempted to spend it on something else. Saving $333/month over three months is a lot more achievable than coming up with $1,000 on the spot.To make saving as easy as possible, set up automatic transfers on the day you get paid. That way, your money will be transferred to your holiday savings account before you even have the chance to spend it on something else.
2) Avoid the last minute scramble.
When people overspend on gifts it’s usually because they are strapped for time. Don’t be the guy running around the mall with bags full of cable knit sweaters and peppermint bubble bath. When you wait until the last minute, finding a meaningful gift at an affordable price is pretty much impossible.
To avoid spending twice as much for a half as good gift, open the notepad on your phone right now and list each person you need to buy a gift for and how much you’d like to spend on them.
As you think of perfect gift ideas, jot them down. In fact, start buying gifts as you come across them. By planning ahead, you’re much more likely to find deals on items that the people in your life will really love.
3) Budget for self-gifting.
Nearly a quarter of adults say they usually buy themselves gifts over the holidays. This can be good or bad depending on how you approach it so “treat yourself” with caution.
If you usually end up buying random items just because they’re on sale, then you are falling victim to the retail industry’s tactics to get you to spend more. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean it’s going to make you happy or be worth what you spent.
Combat temptation by first acknowledging that retailers are actively trying to tempt you when you are shopping. Then, plan to self-gift the smart way.
Keep a list for yourself where you write down items that you really want or need. Then when holiday sales come around, use the list to guide your purchases.
Waiting to buy items at a much lower price point that you were planning on purchasing anyway is a really smart money move. Going into debt for a bunch of impulse purchases definitely is not.