The holidays have the tendency to stretch even the most flexible budgets. There’s meal planning, gifts to buy, travel costs and more to prepare ahead of time.
Organization is essential to arranging your holiday expenditures. Planning purchases for big-ticket items over the course of a few months will help you salvage your sanity and the cash in your wallet.
Create a thorough checklist by asking yourself these five questions:
What are all the prospective expenses I need to consider?
List every expense you can think of, no matter how trivial. There will be many costs to consider over the next few months as you prepare for the holidays.
Are you going to host a party? Are you giving to a charity? Who will you purchase gifts for? Factor in gas costs and plane tickets. Think of the extra power you’ll require when you hang outside lights and decorations. Do your best to make plans with friends and relatives in advance so you’ll be financially prepared for holiday outings.
Your prospective expenses may require research, such as budgeting the cost of plane tickets and checked bags. Asking yourself the right questions now will save you more money.
How much do I want to save?
Now that you’ve prepared a list of your expenses, consider the amount you want to save. This way, you’ll avoid spending beyond your budget and your income.
Automatic transfers into your savings account will help you move money without having to think about it. Certain banks will let you split the money into different types of savings accounts or categories, such as gifts and holiday travel. Save little by little toward the total for each expense you’ve estimated. When you start saving early, big expenses won’t look so harrowing. Think of the way a squirrel stores acorns for winter.
How can I lower my expenses?
Save more by reducing your existing expenses. Find ways to be more frugal in the autumn to store away money for the holidays. See local bands instead of going to major concerts. Pack your lunch over eating out. Saving more by buying in bulk, making freezer meals and having potluck dinners with friends are easy ways to save.
Focus on paying down debt before the holidays. Get ahead on your rent or mortgage. Automate payments for recurring expenses in advance so you don’t have to worry about bills being paid on time. The relief will make you feel less stressed once the holidays arrive.
What side gigs can I explore?
It’s likely you’ll have to find ways to earn more money to cover expenses for the holidays. What talents do you have? What customer service experience do you have? Are there any talents others have admired that you can use to your advantage for the holidays?
Picking up a side gig or turning a talent into a part-time business will help generate more income. Find a part-time job — or create one by babysitting, pet sitting, cleaning homes or helping businesses with their social media needs. If you like to craft, consider knitting or upcycling furniture. Post items for sale on local online yard sale pages. Resell items on e-commerce sites. You might even set up a trade with a friend to knit a blanket for them, while they make homemade soap for you to give to friends.
Are there any loyalty rewards or bonuses I can use?
Don’t forget loyalty rewards and credit card bonuses! Now’s the time to use your airline miles. Credit card points and cash back are great to use when planning travel for the holidays or purchasing gift cards for friends and family.
Take advantage of unused gift cards from holidays past, and sell or use them for your holiday shopping. Bath products, socks and other small items are easily purchased with unused gift cards. If you receive holiday cards you know you won’t use, go ahead and buy small items for others with them now. When the holidays come around again, you’ll be prepared with a few presents.
You don’t have to go into debt for the holiday season! Avoid impulse buys and unnecessary guilt after overspending. A checklist will help you plan ahead and stay within your budget. With a little organization and planning, you’ll enjoy the holidays for what they’re meant to be about — time with family and friends.