'Tis the season to spend money. However, holiday shopping doesn't have to break the bank. Simply follow these holiday budgeting tips to avoid waking up with a post-holiday financial hangover in the New Year.
1. Make a spending plan
Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on all your holiday purchases. Make a list of everything you usually buy, from the gifts to food to entertainment to travel expenses, and tally the costs.
If you don't budget and set a specific value limit, your spending will grow and grow and grow. Come January you'll be horrified by how much you've spent and stressed out on how to pay it all back, rendering your relaxing break to a distant memory. Make your plan, and stick to it!
2. Know your limits
Very few folks can afford to shop carte blanche, so don't try! Make a list of gift recipients and decide how much you want to spend on each person. If you're unable to spend as much on gifts this year, prioritize for those you really want to treat.
The same goes for your holiday expenses. Work out up-front how much plane tickets, car rental, fuel and accommodation will cost. Even if you go with the cheapest option by driving there yourself and staying with family – the little things add up, and food and entertainment are still big expenses.
3. Track your spending
You've made a spending plan - great! But if you don't keep track of all your purchases and make sure you're staying within your budget, you've wasted your time. Write down everything you spend on holiday clothing, wrapping paper and decorations, meals, movies and snacks. These holiday expenses all add up and you need to conscientiously track on your budget. This will also help you when it comes time to make your spending plan when the next holiday season rolls around.
4. Shop with a list
Know what you want to buy, and go to the store with a list. This way, you can zip through the stores faster and are more apt to avoid impulse buying. When you've finished shopping, stop. Another good tip, leave the kids at home when you tackle the isles – you won't only save time but money too!
5. Shop early
The best window for holiday shopping is between the end of September and the start of December. Don't wait until the last minute. Give yourself time to compare prices and find the best deals. An all-out shopping spree leaves you exhausted, tempting you to buy the next thing you see regardless of cost. Last-minute shoppers are unlikely to save money.
It might be a little late for this season, but booking holidays can start as early as February! The sooner you secure your ideal location, the likelihood of getting a better unit closer to the beach or with a better view is higher. The same goes for plane tickets and car rentals. No one wants to end up with Noddy's little car after a 2 hour flight next to the toilets. Not only will you save considerably with early bookings, but you're more likely to get the holiday you're dreaming of.