It's no secret that holiday-time can be stressful for many people. While it's the season that fills calendars with food, family, and gatherings, that can also mean a host of additional expenses to balance and budget for. If you're working to avoid starting off the New Year with a credit hangover, you might already be making more progress than you think toward a calmer and less frantic holiday season this year.
As the season picks up steam, make sure your plan to keep your finances on track includes some of these key ideas:
Set financial goals that make sense for you
If you have dozens of close family members to buy gifts for, your budget picture will look very different from someone who gifts primarily to a friend group. Deck your gifting plan against a maximum dollar amount you're comfortable spending to see how what you're working with can split against the number of gifts you'll need to buy. When you tally your gift count, don't forget to build in a few extras, too - the hostess gifts for parites you might be planning to attend.
Shop thoughtfully and purposefully
Once you've split out your overall funds and you know what you have to work with per-head (more or less), you can start to think about the ideal gift for each recipient. If you're a natural gift-giver, this might be where your thought process starts, and it's now simply a matter of fitting those ideas into your freshly formed budget. You'll also be able to identify the stores that can you check these gifts off your list, and look for special offers to save even more there during the season. Some of these offers also offer or combine with free shipping or other incentives at peak times.
Alternatively, you might think about starting your shopping for holiday gifts early next year - like, ridiculously early. You might follow the example of the friend who shares on social in September that they've just bought their last holiday gift. While a departure from the norm, it means that you can be truly selective and shop the best sales of the entire year, not just the weeks that make up the holiday shopping season. Consider how playing the long game when it comes to holiday shopping could help you bring smiles to everyone on your list.
Cut down your overall list of gifting
Have you committed yourself to an unrealistically long shopping list? Don't be afraid to reevaluate and make some trims - especially if you're a part of a big family gifting pattern that means having to find something for each person individually. Being able to gift to couples or families things they might enjoy together can often have more impact as well as save you time and money. You may also consider dropping a few folks from the gifts category down to holidays cards only.
With the advent of the e-card, it's easier and more affordable than ever to keep in touch with those both far and near. I remember in our house, holiday cards were a very manual, multi-step process each fall. But my mom kept notations in her book of who she received cards from each year so she could track who she was in communication with so her (and our) efforts wouldn't be wasted.
Actively work to cut your stress levels
Practicing some self-care during the business of holidaytime is never a bad idea. Thinking back to stressful holiday seasons of the past, recall the moments that were the most frustrating. Was it the interminable waits at the post office to ship packages with rush shipping? Was it a last-minute trip to the mall to shop for surprise gifts off shelves that had already been picked clean? Do what you can now to be planful and avoid the tension of last-minute work that can send your carefully-constructed budget into a tailspin right before Santa's arrival.
Find the holiday harmony within
It's no wonder that the holidays are known as the season of light - something that can be hard to hold onto in the frenzy of the last days of the year. But make sure you aren't sacrificing precious time with loved ones and family because of an arbitrary list of tasks that might include icing an army of gingerbread men and/or creating a larger-than-life North Pole landscape on your front lawn. If you're hosting a holiday party, plan for your costs without feeling obligated to go overboard. Sticking to your budget can feel great - at least better than entering the New Year under a mountain of last-minute debt.
The holidays are here. Make sure you can keep your budget (and your goals of maintaining your sanity - financial and otherwise) on track to keep things merry and bright.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.