As the leaves continue to fall and the nightly temps dip cooler, we know that the holiday season will soon be upon us. It seems the holiday season starts earlier every year and you may not have been ready for dancing elves to be on display at your local stores in July. To help reduce holiday stress and after-holiday bills, often known as the holiday financial hangover, now is the time to start preparing for upcoming holiday expenses.
Before the holiday season steps into high gear, take time to get prepared. Review your current financial situation and determine a holiday spending limit that works with your family budget. To make certain you are not tempted to increase your limit as the season progresses, develop a holiday budget for gift-giving, food, travel and entertainment expenses. Potential additional expenses which are often forgotten in a holiday budget include gasoline, babysitter fees and eating out more often.
As you work on your budget, start by making a list of everyone you plan to give a gift, including children, loved-ones, teachers, babysitters, hair stylist, etc. Identify a realistic spending limit and possible gift idea for each person on your list. It is important that you not feel pressured to give anyone a gift. If your finances are tighter this year than normal, consider a hand-written note expressing thanks or appreciation. Continue to work your way through your holiday budget estimating other anticipated expenses. If you have receipts or credit card statements from last year, you may be able to use these as a guide in developing a realistic estimate for travel, entertainment and food expenses.
As you are preparing your finances for the upcoming holidays, you will also want to think about how you pay for your holiday shopping and expenses. You are less likely to overspend if you pay with cash, as opposed to using a credit card. If you are using cash, once all your cash is gone, you are finished with your holiday shopping. Many stores are now offering layaway plans. If you decide to use a store layaway option, be certain to check the return policy and keep track of all payments.
Plan your holiday shopping trips ahead of time, review store ads and know exactly who and what you are shopping for prior to entering the store. Impromptu shopping trips and wondering around a store looking for gift ideas can lead to impulsive purchases, which were not part of your original budget. Do your window shopping at home using catalogs or online, so that you know exactly what you want when are at the store. Finally, remember holiday sales can be tempting, but once you are in the store stick with your original budget