Buying gifts for the holidays can be daunting if you don’t have a strategy in place to help you set aside spending money. Even if you have been careful with your money throughout the year, best intentions to spend wisely can fly out the window once the holiday season starts. Overspending during the holidays can cause some people to feel extra guilt and stress, taking away from the enjoyment of the season. If you’re unsure how to start saving for the holidays, here are a few ideas to help you get started.
1. SET A BUDGET
While it can be nice to splurge on a special person, overspending can easily get out of hand. One expensive present may not break your budget, but you can feel pressure to spend the same amount on the next person, and so on, until you have spent more than you intended on holiday gifts.
To ensure your spending doesn’t spiral out of control, set a budget and stick to it. How do you set a budget? Once you’ve determined the maximum amount you’d like to spend, you can set rough limits for how much to spend on each person by dividing your total budget by how many people you’ll be giving a gift to. Of course, you may decide to spend more on certain people who play a special role in your life, like a sibling, child, or best friend.
When deciding on a budget, keep in mind that if you spend $20 on a 25-person gift list, for example, your budget would be $500. If the figure you arrive at is too steep, consider reducing the number of people on your list by only exchanging gifts with close family and friends and weeding out extra people like a neighbor or your mailman.
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2. START A SEPARATE HOLIDAY SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Many financial institutions used to offer Christmas Club accounts. Although they are uncommon nowadays, the concept behind them still applies. Repurpose an existing account or open a new account to designate as your holiday savings account. You can schedule automatic transfers from your paycheck to simplify the process.
To determine what your savings goal should be for each pay period, figure out how many you have left before you begin holiday shopping. If you have ten weeks until it’s time to start buying gifts, divide how much you’re going to spend by 10 if you’re paid on a weekly basis, or five if you’re paid biweekly. For a budget of $500, you’ll want to set up automated transfers of $50 or $100 into your holiday savings account each pay period
3. CUT BACK ON YOUR SPENDING.
To generate extra money to transfer to your holiday savings account, look for areas where you can cut back on your spending until you reach your savings goal. Consider cutting out “extra” expenses like your morning coffee run or eating out for lunch every day. The money you save on those items can go directly to your holiday spending budget.
It’s not too late to start now—even a month or two can make a notable difference. By brewing coffee at home before work instead of spending $3 at the coffee shop, you could set aside an extra $120 in just two months.
In combination with budgeting, this short-term savings plan could help make holiday shopping more affordable or allow you to purchase a few more gifts for loved ones. While this might feel like a sacrifice, if it helps make your budget possible, it will be worth it for a short period of time.
4. SELL ITEMS YOU NO LONGER NEED
For those unsure where to start, go through your belongings and think about the last time you used each item. Channel Marie Kondo to determine what “sparks joy” in your closet or household. If it has been more than six months or a year, it may be time to part with that item.
Clothes in good condition can be sold to a consignment shop. For other household objects, if it’s too cold for a yard sale, try advertising on a Facebook buy and sell group, Ebay, or another online marketplace. Any profit you make from your sales can be deposited into your holiday savings account.
Whether you budget, create a holiday account, reduce your spending, sell items you no longer need, or all of the above, the hidden idea behind each concept is planning. The sooner you start saving, the bigger your budget can be. Find which method or methods that will work for you and start saving for the holidays today.
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