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Protecting Your Budget During the Holidays


Tired of starting the new year with a pile of debt? Shop smart, and you can enjoy the holidays without putting yourself in the poorhouse. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time and budget:

Decide how much you can spend

Set your holiday budget before you go near a store. One big mistake? People overlook the little extras when they draft a budget. Include everything from postage for Christmas cards to holiday party favors, home decorations to the cost of boarding a pet if you’re traveling.

Make a meal plan

Whether you are hosting guests or sharing a holiday meal with your immediate family, the cost can add up. Figure out your menu and begin gathering nonperishable items ahead of time (this will also keep you from forgetting important items, like pantry staples.).

Make a list and check it twice

Armed with your budget, make a list of all the people you want to buy for. Then go over the list and decide how much you can spend on each. Don’t have enough money to cover your holiday budget? Go through it again and cut names or amounts.

Once you settle on a dollar amount for each person, that’s it. Focus on the amount you’ll spend, not what you’ll buy. For big families, develop a gift list with other relatives, you shouldn’t have to buy something for everyone.

Pay cash or think of your credit cards as short-term loans

Set a limit, take that money out of your credit union or bank and when that money is gone, it’s over. If you decide to use credit cards then ideally, you’ll want to pay everything off immediately. Have a choice of cards? Always use the card that offers the lowest interest rate. It’s a good idea to set up alerts once you approach a high balance.


Allow enough time for all your holiday preparations

Who hasn’t run out for a gift at the last minute and ended up paying top dollar? But whether you’re shopping, baking or wrapping presents to send cross-country, budgeting your time can end up saving you tons of money. Consider investing in services like Amazon Prime, free shipping can go along way if you’re ordering multiple gifts.

Don’t overlook the value of intangibles

Do you want to give someone a gift but don’t have the money? If you’re already baking cookies for your family, make an extra batch as a present for a neighbor or coworker. Want to help a friend who’s got a lot on her plate? Offer to baby-sit, walk the dog or take an elderly relative for an outing. The cost is next to nothing, but the gift is priceless.

Send e-cards

They’re free — or only cost a couple of dollars — and don’t require postage. Some even play music, making them a fun, free way to catch up with far-flung friends and family.

Just say “no” to toy lust

If your kids still believe in Santa, help them draft real-world wish lists. In the post-Santa years, set some financial boundaries and give them some choices.

Factor in Travel Costs

Holiday travel requires extra planning. Flight, train, bus, or road trip? Are you staying in a hotel? Are you attending shows or events? How much is gas in the area you’re visiting? If you wing it, instead of planning ahead and creating a budget, your wallet is sure to suffer. If you are flying, set up price alerts for the dates you plan to travel and let sites like Kayak and airline websites do the work for you.

Plan for Emergencies

Expect the unexpected during the holiday season. Unpleasant surprises can range from the minor (the toy your child is counting on is sold out), to the major (you’re stranded because your flight is indefinitely delayed by bad weather). Set aside funds in case you have to change your plans at the last minute. Consider investing in travel insurance if you are booking flights. Have backup supplies for holiday meals in case you have a cooking crisis, or last-minute guests show up. Advance planning will save you both time and money.

We wish you the Happiest of Holidays and a very Happy New Year!

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