The weather is cooling down. The days are getting shorter. That means one thing – fall is here, and the holiday shopping season with it.
For many Americans, that means increased spending, often with expenses that weren’t budgeted for earlier in the year.
Gallup reported that Americans planned on spending $830 on gifts in 2015, with another report showing an increase in spending of more than 3 percent for 2016. That amount can put a strain on any budget, but it can be suffocating if you’ve not planned for the holiday shopping season, or worse yet, have overspent.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to manage expenses this year, or have overspent, here are some tips to get you in the right direction.
Get Creative with Your Gift-Giving
There are many ways to give your loved one a gift they’ll enjoy that won’t put a major crimp on your budget. If you don’t have the funds necessary to buy that special gift, think about what you can make. And you don’t necessarily need to be crafty to make a gift. It helps, but it’s by no means a requirement. This can include things like baking a treat, to buying a small or relatively inexpensive item you know they really enjoy.
Savings expert Kendal Perez from CouponSherpa provides further options for the DIY gift, “Gourmet gift baskets purchased from Costco, Sam’s Club, Harry & David and the like can be broken apart and given as smaller, individual gifts to several people on your list. Same goes with multi-packs of fuzzy socks, golf balls or holiday beauty sets.” As Perez explains, this helps you break down the per person cost while also personalizing the gift. You save money and still give a nice gift, making it a win-win.
Shop on Discount
It’s easy to buy in to the belief that you have to pay full price when it comes to holiday shopping. Even if you’ve budgeted for the cost, it doesn’t make sense to pay more for something than you need to. When it comes to buying gifts, there are many ways to shop on discount, such as:
- Shopping secondhand – just make sure the item doesn’t show any bad wear signs, otherwise it may not be appreciated.
- Unused gift cards you don’t plan on using to buy a gift.
- Find discount codes if you shop online. Often retailers share discount codes on social media or use sites like Retailmenot.
- Buy a daily deal for someone. This may not always work, but if it’s for something the recipient enjoys, it allows you to save money.
Even if you haven’t budgeted for holiday spending, many of the above options, and those like them, will help keep you from overspending.
What to Do if You’ve Already Overspent
Shopping can be an emotional experience, and even more so during the holidays. Retailers know this and try to get us to spend even more. If you’ve already overspent your budget, you need to do one simple thing – stop spending, (especially if your spending is on a credit card). The last thing you want is a nasty surprise come January with a hefty credit card bill you’re unable to pay.
That being said, there are ways to mitigate the spending you’ve already done. “Consider selling stuff you don’t want and use the cash to finish up your holiday shopping. You can also make gifts for the remaining people on your list, or redeem credit card rewards for gift cards. You can also re-gift items you already own but do so thoughtfully,” says Perez. With a little ingenuity and thought, you can keep the spending from impacting your budget too much.
Planning is the Best Policy
While the holidays are nearly upon us, you still have time to plan your spending. Commit to setting aside money each week to help cover your spending. Everything you save now will help soften the blow. At the same time, you want to use this as an opportunity to start planning for next year.
We know the holidays come every year and by getting ahead of it now, you set yourself up for success. This may include speaking with friends and family to come to an expectation of what kind of exchange you both want. Doing so will help you come to a number you can expect to spend in the coming year.
That number gives you power, as Perez points out, “Knowing the amount you typically spend during the holiday season is key to creating an effective savings strategy for the rest of the year. Once you know your target savings goal, open a separate account and start funneling funds into it so you can easily track your progress.” Doing this may feel overwhelming, but it’s an effective strategy that can keep spending in line with your budgetary needs.
If you’ve not budgeted for your holiday spending, you still have time. By using some of these money-saving tactics you can end the year without added debt and start 2017 on the right foot.