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Holiday spending and your budget: Five tips for avoiding common pitfalls

12.14. 2017 Posted By: The Mennonite 117 Times read

Shari Beck is a Financial Advisor with Everence. 

Black Friday is officially over and the holiday gift season has started. Even if you overindulged over Thanksgiving – in more ways than one – it’s not too late to keep your holiday spending under control.

First, let’s assess the situation. Are you over budget and what can we do to get back on track? The average family in the United Sates spends $983 on holiday gifts1 and only one-third of American families have a budget2. It should set off some red flags that most families spend a significant amount without having a budget in place. So take care of your financial health and go into this holiday season prepared.

Here are a few of my best tips for staying on top of things:

Know who you’re shopping for

You know the drill. Make a list and check it twice! Take time to think of all those loved ones you need to buy for: from your children to your mail carrier. Put a dollar figure next to each person’s name to help you remember your target price when that dream item comes on sale. Set procrastinating aside this time of year as well. That way you are sitting around a warm fire singing Christmas carols with your family on Christmas Eve, instead of running through the aisles of the store looking for an item that just sold out.

Remember the forgotten expenses

Presents are not the only expense this time of year. It’s easy to forget the cost of shipping for our gifts–and ourselves–in the form of travel expenses for the holidays. There are also other expenses like wrapping paper and decorations, the Christmas tree, charitable giving, potlucks and work gift exchanges. Allow some space for miscellaneous expenses in your Christmas budget so that you can enjoy these small nuances that really add joy to the season.

Hunt for the deals

Some of us are amazing at stretching that dollar as far as it can go! There are so many resources out there to help, such as rebate apps (like Ibotta, Ebates, Swagbucks), coupons, price matching, loyalty rewards or even bartering and online garage sales. We can be relentless about getting the right price, and that works to our advantage as we check everyone off our lists. Take some time to plan your shopping trips, and ensure you get the best price and drastically decrease the number of trips needed to get the job done.

Follow the plan – track your spending

As painful as it is to stay within your budget, it will be well worth it come January when you have no bills hanging over your head. Do not wait until the end of the month to check if you are within your budget! If you wait until after Christmas, it could be too late and there will be no recovering from your December budget. There are many apps you can utilize to help track your spending, such as Mint, Every Dollar and Quickbooks. Or if you are more traditional, there is nothing wrong with a little pen and paper. Take the time to re-evaluate your yearly budget to help you save for Christmas throughout the year!

Everything else

Let’s face it, the holidays can be overwhelming. We put pressure on ourselves to have the perfectly “Joanna Gaines-style” decorated home, the most beautiful “tablescapes” and Pinterest-worthy wrapped gifts. Remember that what we are celebrating and who we are celebrating with will always the most important part of the holidays. So give yourself some grace this season and enjoy every twinkling moment together.

1 American Research Group. 33rd annual survey on holiday spending

2 Gallup News. One in three Americans prepare a detailed household budget.

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One Response to “Holiday spending and your budget: Five tips for avoiding common pitfalls”

  1. […] The Mennonite reports that gifts are not the only ones you are going to spend this holiday season. There are also those subtle, little expenses that can do damage to your wallet once they all add up. This includes gift wrappers, shipping fees, decorations, potlucks and charitable giving. Travel expense must also be considered. […]

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