It seems like Fall is just getting started. But it's already time to start thinking about the holidays -- especially if you want to save money. Often, a little foresight and planning can reduce your spending. These are some tips to get you started on the way to a January free of holiday debt.
1. Develop a Spending Plan
Start by looking back to years past. That gives you a sense of your typical obligations. Identify your major categories of food, decorations, travel, and gifts, and break down what you usually spend. This may be a painful process, but it gives you the information you need to develop a realistic budget for the upcoming holiday season. If you can, make note of areas of waste that you don't want to repeat. For example, decorations you bought on impulse but never used.
2. Start Saving Early
Ideally, you put aside a small amount throughout the year to pay for the holidays. You can start this process a few months before December as well. Break down your budget into manageable chunks and place it into a savings account. Using cash for your holiday purchases can also help you to ease the burden of holiday bills. If you do want to charge it, use a low-interest rate credit card.
3. Sales, Discounts, and Price Matching
Black Friday is just as big in Canada, with most retailers taking advantage of the traditional shopping holiday the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Use your shopping budget to purchase items during these major sale days. Whenever you buy, keep your receipts. Many businesses price match or will honour refunds if you decide to return an item.
4. Make a List
To avoid impulse buying, try to stick to a list. Going into a sale with a plan helps you stay on track financially, while still getting everything you need. Even if you miss the sales, a list can keep you on target, on budget, and make sure you don't accidentally forget anyone.
5. Team up with Neighbours
Holidays are largely about community. Suggest setting up a tradition that follows this sentiment but keeps the spending in check. Instead of giving gifts to your neighbours, suggest a cookie or baking exchange. Going DIY can save you a lot of money and adds to the joy of the holiday season. There's often something more meaningful about giving and receiving homemade cookies than an item purchased from a store at the last minute.
6. Rethink Old Habits
Often the largest spending comes as families grow older and expand. At one time, maybe you only had a few people to buy for -- but as your circle grew in members, the costs rose. Take a minute to reassess how your family celebrates the holidays. Perhaps you can offer one gift to a couple instead of individual gifts. Some only give gifts to the children. Whatever your family tradition, you can talk to friends and family about finding ways to be inclusive and celebratory, without going over the top with expenses. The chances are, if you are looking to trim your holiday budget, your relatives are as well.