The pumpkin spice lattes are brewing, which means winter is just around the corner! While the run-up to the holiday season is a joyous time for many, stress about festive spending can dampen the autumn mood. Read on for a few tips to start saving now for the winter holidays.
Do a Financial Inventory
Start your holiday budget plans by doing a full inventory on your finances. What’s available in savings accounts? What’s owed in bills? Check upcoming credit card statements and read over last year’s utility bills to get the best idea of how much money you’ll have available when the winter holidays come around. When in doubt, stick to the lean side of your estimates so that you don’t accidentally end up planning to spend more money than you can afford.
Set a Holiday Budget
Once you have a clearer idea of what funds are available, make a holiday budget. List out the people to whom you’d like to give a gift, and start estimating how much you can afford to spend on each. Of course, presents are only a small portion of holiday spending—you’ll also want to consider the cost of holiday meals at home, hostess gifts if you attend any parties, New Year’s Eve cocktails and so on. Many people also like to purchase one or two new outfits for the holidays, so if that’s you: put it in the budget.
Once your budget is ready, it’s time to start saving! There’s no one way to save—it’s about finding the method that works best for you. The 52 week challenge involves saving $1 the first week, $2 the second week and so on. Why not do a sped-up version before the winter holidays? There’s also a $5 savings challenge: every time you find a $5 in your wallet, it goes straight in the piggy bank.
If you prefer to automate rather than gamify, check in with your credit union or bank about opening a separate and automated savings account for holiday expenses, so you’re not tempted to spend your hard-earned cash. HUECU, for example, has Club Savings Accounts which enable the saver to make automatic deposits via payroll deduction or another transfer. Then, on a scheduled date, the sum transfers into your regular savings account.
Trim the Fat
Nothing destroys your holiday savings faster than a leaky budget. Review your recent credit card bills and find places where you might trip the fat. Subscription spending in particular tends to get overlooked, with many consumers spending tens or even hundreds of dollars every month on services they rarely use. If you can cut out one or two entertainment platforms in the run-up to the winter holidays, you’ll have significantly more money to spend when festivities roll around.
With your budget set and savings steadily growing, you’ll be in a good position to take advantage of pre-holiday sales. Don’t wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get started with the holiday shopping: in fact, many of the best sales prices you’ll find take place as part of stores’ normal inventory rotation. Be guided by your gift list, and if you see something you know will make a great (and perfectly priced) present, get it now.
On the other hand, prepping early means you’ve got plenty of time if you prefer to make gifts for friends or family rather than buying. DIY sugar scrub, teacup candles or infused liquors are all thoughtful, useful and fun homemade holiday gifts.
Find Extra Income
The months before the holidays are busier than usual for all kinds of businesses, so it’s a great time to pick up a side hustle. Check in with local restaurants and cafes about part-time positions for a few months, or try signing up with an app like Taskrabbit or Instacart if you’d prefer to make your own schedule. For remote work, you can find freelance gigs on UpWork or Fiverr spanning a huge range of categories—from voice recording, to customer service, to administrative support and much more.