The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color, and there’s a distinctive smell of pumpkin spice in the air. In other words, Autumn is finally here! Which means the holiday season is just around the corner. True, you’ve still got a few long weeks before the festive shopping begins in earnest and with COVID-19 the holidays will look different, so why not get a head start?
Studies show that holiday spending gets higher and higher with every passing year, so if you’re aiming to smartly manage your money and financial stress this year, now is the time to begin your budgeting and saving. For many, budgets may be extra tight this year or you may be forgoing traveling plans and decide to mail gifts instead. Read on for seven great ideas on how to prepare your wallet for the holidays.
Budget, Budget, Budget
There’s really only one way to avoid overspending at the holidays – budget, budget, budget! Start making your holiday gift list now and determine exactly how much you can afford to spend. Take a moment to think about your money personality and identify not only how much you can spend, but what is your driving factor. Due to COVID-19, you may spend more to make up for not seeing family or you may not have the funds but decide to use a credit card to supplement your income. It’s important to be realistic with how much you can afford and remember that gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Finally, put your budget into an app or electronic notebook so it’s in your pocket at all times to reference when the holiday spending starts.
Open a Dedicated Holiday Savings Account
The more money you can save now, the easier it will be to cover holiday expenses – but this can be easier said than done. If you need extra support on saving for the holidays, consider opening a dedicated savings account. Club Savings Accounts from HUECU, for example, are a simple way to save automatically for a specific need, such as a vacation or holiday shopping. You can make regular deposits into the account via direct deposit, automatic transfer or automatic payroll reduction; helping you to save funds without the hassle of regularly moving money from one account to another.
Do a One-Gift Exchange
Rather than everyone buying gifts for everyone else, why not do a one-gift exchange? This “Secret Santa” style of holiday gift-giving means every person buys just one gift, for one other person. It’s a great option for families and friend groups where everyone is on a tight budget. As an added bonus, cutting down your gift-giving list means less time at the shopping mall and more time to spend doing something special around the holidays with the people who matter.
Shop With Your Points & Miles
Many credit cards, airlines and other loyalty programs have changed policies this year to make it easier for members to spend their points and miles on non-travel benefits. Check with the programs you belong to and see if it’s possible to get any special discounts or shopping opportunities via your membership. There are even online platforms like Award Wallet that can help you track your loyalty points and find out what kind of redemptions you’re entitled to.
Support a Charity While You Shop
Holiday shopping from a charity organization is a great way to bring holiday cheer to those who need it most, while also saving you money. Gifts and cards provided by a charity are usually less expensive than what you’d find in a mainstream shopping mall, and most importantly, the money you spend will be going toward a good cause. There are plenty of resources online to help you find a charity organization to shop with; or ask around to see if any local groups are planning a holiday gift fair near you.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Stress is the enemy of smart shopping. When you’re overwhelmed and on a deadline, it’s much harder to stick to your holiday budget. To avoid emptying your wallet on a last-minute run to the mall, start ticking off your holiday shopping list right now. There will be multiple off-season sales to take advantage of before the holiday period begins in earnest, which means less money spent and far less stress in the long-run.
Make Gifts, Instead of Buying Them
Homemade gifts are easier on the wallet and tend to be much more special for the person receiving them. If you’re crafty in the kitchen (and even if you’re not), gifts like a mason jar brownie mix, candy cane-infused vodka or home-roasted chestnuts are simple treats brimming with festive spirit. You can also gift your friends and family with coupon books for special experiences, such as a one-on-one ice skating date, a movie night at home, or breakfast in bed. You may also shop for used items, and find online tutorials to give them new life that would make them a great gift.