This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.
Summer is coming to an end and that means it will be just a few months until the holiday season. While you’re probably looking forward to apple orchards and pumpkin spice lattes right now, time will fly by and the official countdown to Christmas will be here before you know it.
The holiday season can be a mix of excitement and stress for some. We are motivated to be more generous and giving but this can easily lead to overspending.
According to a SunTrust annual Holiday Financial Confidence survey in 2016, 43% of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford on the holiday season.
Most people will set a spending limit for their holiday expenses but exceed it anyway which could lead to costly debt payments and financial stress for the following year.
Let me tell you, one of the best feelings you can have is knowing that you didn’t overspend for the holidays and have to take credit card bills, loans, and past due bills into the new year with you.
It pays to avoid overspending for Christmas but you can still have an amazing holiday season. Here are some of the best ways to manage your holiday spending better this year.
Start Saving Early
One of the best ways I combat overspending during the holidays is by starting my savings stash early in the year. I usually start saving for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve around July or August at the latest.
I like to build a savings ladder which means I’ll start off saving smaller amounts of money like $25 -$50 per month. Then, I’ll increase it to $100 per month, then $200 per month. I stash my holiday savings fund in a high-yield savings account so it can earn interest quickly.
Aside from budgeting for holiday savings, I also try to earn more money so I can throw additional cash into my savings account. I love easy side hustles, so my husband and I have been taking surveys, earning cash back, and using Uber to make extra money for the holidays.
Create a Holiday Budget and Stick to It
At the end of the day, one of the best ways to better manage your holiday spending starts with the planning process. You not only need to create a holiday budget but you need to create one you can stick to.
Creating a holiday spending budget doesn’t have to mean cutting out all the fun stuff or gifts. It’s just a clear plan that will show you how to structure your spending.
I like to create a spending list so I know which categories I’ll have. I like Suntrust’s Holiday Budget Spreadsheet because it lists out common categories already along with some hidden expenses you may have forgotten about like gift wrapping paper, cards, and holiday decor.
SunTrust launched the onUp Movement and I started participating in it a few years ago. The movement was created to inspire millions of Americans to take a step forward toward financial confidence. This is so essential year-round, and especially during the holidays when so many can feel discouraged about the overwhelming expenses.
Below is a snapshot of my anticipated holiday budget.
To keep expenses low, I’ll probably be DIYing a few things again, shop the sales, and really prioritize to see if I can do without certain unnecessary expenses. I’ll also be looking for cheap and free entertainment options during the holiday season. There’s always shows and events in our area and we love driving around the neighborhood and looking at holiday lights.
Since this is our first year in the new house, I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun decorating our own home together.
To help you stick to your budget, you need to track your spending. You can use this budget spreadsheet to organize and estimate your spending, but you can also use it to track expenses too. If what you actually spend comes in lower than what you anticipated, you can take the difference and put it toward another expense.
Use Your Phone to Price Check
It’s best to get into the habit of price checking before you start shopping for the holidays. Shopping around and comparing prices can save you money in general, but it can save you a significant amount when you’re holiday shopping.
If there’s something on your list that you absolutely need, be sure to compare prices at different retailers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
There are many apps to use that will help you find the best deals at popular retail stores and online.
Take Advantage of Coupons and Cash Back
While you’re price checking, you might as well take advantage of coupons and discounts. Holiday sales are going to be all over but it’s important to weed out the worthy discounts from the spending traps that are advertised as sales.
Be sure to read the fine print when researching sales and searching for coupons. Some stores will use large print on window signs to advertise the perks of the sale. In much smaller text, the fine print details the true limitations of the sale.
One time I was reeled in to enter one of my favorite clothing stores because I saw a huge “50% off” sale sign on in the storefront window. Once I got into the store, I realized the only items that were 50% were coats and I wasn’t looking for a coat.
Some stores also hand out coupons once you make a purchase so you can use them for future purchases. If you know you’ll frequent a particular store over the holiday shopping season this may be helpful or you may benefit from joining one of their rewards programs.
Regift or DIY
Sounds tacky right? Wrong! If you’re regifting or DIYing some holiday gifts, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Sure, it’s the thought that counts and at the same time you can’t force a gift on someone.
I personally like only spending money on gifts that people want or need. I’m not interested in just giving them old crap that has been lying around my house.
If you have unused gift cards or gifts that have remained unopened or unused, these could be great gifts that you could repurpose to lower your holiday spending.
Last year, I had an Amazon gift card balance so I allowed my sister to order something she wanted for $50 as a Christmas gift. Sure, it may seem odd or thoughtless to some. But for as long as I can remember, my sister has only wanted cash or gift cards for holidays, birthdays, etc.
She likes to shop for her own items so the gift was perfect and convenient for us both.
If you’re creative, you can also try making a gift for friends or family members. Bath bombs are easy to make, you may be able to sew something or design a customer t-shirt online, or you could customize a picture frame and fill it with a family photo or a recent travel picture.
Holidays can be expensive. The key to better manage your holiday spending is to start planning early and get organized with a budget. There’s plenty of room to be creative and save when shopping so you can enjoy the season without draining your finances.
How are you preparing for the holiday season? Do you do any of these things to better manage holiday spending?
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