Halloween hasn’t even arrived, but if you’re like a lot of people, you're already thinking about tree toppers, tinsel and stocking stuffers.
While you’re ahead of the game, why not strategize about all the ways you can avoid holiday overspending? It’s a thing: According to a MagnifyMoney survey, consumers racked up more than $1,200 in debt last holiday season — even though 64 percent said they weren’t expecting to.
Seasonal overspending can throw a wrench in your budget — but it doesn't have to. These tips can help.
MAKE A HOLIDAY BUDGET
Start with last year’s holiday-season credit card and bank statements. Make a list of all your potential costs for this year and estimate which ones will go up or down over last year’s. Remember that there should be more than just gifts on this list; include expenditures like travel, decorations, tips for service providers and food — particularly if you plan on hosting big family feasts this year.
If your calculation puts you in the red, get strategic. Does everyone on your list warrant a purchased gift, or would they appreciate a DIY gift all the same? Could you start a new holiday Secret Santa tradition among your relatives, or agree that only kids get presents this year? The great thing about starting your budget early is that there’s still time to get creative.
And here’s a hint for next year: Start setting aside some money for the holidays in a special savings account months ahead of time. By starting early, you’ll have cash at the ready by the time the holidays roll around.
AVOID THE IMPULSE BUY
Here’s a familiar story: You’ve got your shopping list all sorted out, but then you notice all the markdowns on those other things you absolutely need right now. (And by “need,” we really mean “want.”)
Stay focused. Research from The Center for the New Middle Class shows that those who chase sales are 45 percent more likely to spend more than they anticipated for the holidays. Unless that doorbuster helps you save on an item that was on your list (for real), avoid the lure of the red tag.
CONSIDER GOING ALL CASH
We know — it’s just so easy to swipe your card when you’re running frantically around the mall. But if going into debt over the holidays is a repeat pattern for you, consider committing to going all-cash, at least for the holiday season. For many people, handling physical money makes the spending feel more tangible and makes you value what you’re buying more.
REDEEM YOUR REWARDS
What good are credit card rewards when about a third of us never redeem them? See if you can offset any of your travel, food or gift-giving costs using points you’ve earned through credit card rewards or loyalty programs. Maybe those miles you’ve been hoarding can help pay for a plane ticket to your in-laws', or your credit card points can cover the cost of co-worker gift cards. Let your rewards take care of big or small costs so you can stress less about your budget and focus more on making memories with loved ones.