The gift-giving holidays are around the corner. If you don’t believe me, go buy some Halloween supplies. You’ll have to walk around Christmas decorations to get to the costume aisle. My warehouse club had Christmas decorations on Labor Day weekend. That’s way too early, even for me.
Depending on which holiday you celebrate, you have about a month for Chanukah and about two months before Christmas. Where does the time go? It seems that we were just talking about planning your summer vacations.
Don’t panic. You still have time to tackle your to-do list so you can stay within your budget.
Here are my suggestions to keep the holidays bright on a budget:
1. Make a list. Write down all the names of the all people you want to give gifts to. This includes family, friends, coworkers, teachers, service people (baby sitters, hair dressers, delivery people, etc.). Then, don’t forget the additional expenses that happen at the holidays: special entertainment events, parties, and travel.
2. Set your budget limit. This is how much you can afford to spend without having credit card debit in January.
3. Put dollar amounts next to each person and event on your list. Don’t forget to include shipping and travel costs. Also, add in the hostess gifts and food for the events you participate in. Those should be part of the budget, too.
4. Compare your budget limit and your list. How is that working? Do you have more people than your budget allows? If so, go back and make adjustments. You don’t have to leave people out – think of fun alternatives, instead. Can you do a family gift, a gift-less potluck, or a name-draw gift exchange? You want to be able to afford the holidays and enjoy them. You do NOT want to spend more than you can afford. There’s nothing worse than greeting the New Year with January credit card debt.
5. Start shopping. Comparison shopping is by far the best way to shop. Know what you want to buy, do your research and don’t stray from your list. Compare retail and online for the best deal, but, don’t forget the after-sale deals. You should watch for rebates and make sure the store will give you a refund if you purchase something before it goes on sale (within a reasonable time period). Keep those receipts handy.
6. Buy hot items early. These are gifts that are guaranteed to go out-of-stock because every child (and some adults) think they have to have it. It might be a video game or console, or a new kind of toy. Whatever it is, if it’s important to your gift plans, don’t wait.
Remember that planning ahead and taking your time will help your stress level. Pace yourself, and follow your list, so you can relax and enjoy your special time with family and friends.