When it comes to holiday shopping, consumers are cutting back this season, using cash more often, and looking for the best deals. But before heading out the door to the nearest mall or major retailer, perhaps the best approach is to create a spending plan that will not only keep the debt Grinch out of the season, it will help keep life simple and sane.
The holidays are one of the most expensive times of the year. Besides gifts for friends and family, there other costs involved as we open up our homes to guests, prepare meals, and attend parties or other special events. In addition, the season tempts shoppers with great deals on items they really don't need or want. Now more than ever, Americans want to keep the spending in check. Rather than sitting down to create the dreaded "budget," think of creating a "spending plan" that gives you the power to decide where to focus spending over the holiday season.
Ideally, a spending plan should be made as early as possible, but it's never too late to take control of expenses. Make a list of everyone who will receive a gift, how much will be spent on each person, and what items you will buy. Don't forget items such as wrapping paper, holiday cards, and the hostess gift you take to your friend's annual party. Add up the numbers to these items - this becomes your holiday spending plan.
Once you have decided how much to spend on each recipient, Does the balance you've come up with make sense for your overall daily spending guide? If not, consider ways in which you can cut back on expenditures now to free up some extra cash. Skip the extra latte or eating out so often. A little creativity can go a long way in helping you fund the holiday spending plan.
Of course, one of the most effective ways to get shop for the holidays is to start early when you're not under pressure to finish the list. You may find some of the best deals this way as well. Shopping early can also cut down on the cost of shipping gifts across country. Rather than shipping items overnight or next day, you have the freedom to choose slower, but more economical shipping rates.
When heading to the stores, take the list along. Before entering the doors, determine to stick to the purchases on the list. There is a lot of merchandise to look over during the holidays, try to avoid wandering the aisles and busting the budget on an impulse purchase. Decide to make shopping as efficient as possible. This not only saves the wallet, it may even save your sanity during the busy season as well.
Another approach is to consider ways in which you can get creative with expenditures. In addition to purchasing as many of the items on your list at a discount, use a little bit of imagination. Create a themed gift for a family who loves watching movies together. Purchase a couple DVDs or a rental gift card, bags of popcorn, or other items related to the theme. Grandparents always love artwork created by grandchildren. A nicely framed creation is not only a great gift, it can serve as a reminder of the child when they are apart. Rather than gifting all of your friends or close neighbors, host an open house or dinner party. Time together, after all, is one of greatest gifts. For those who want to give back, gather family members together and give to a favorite charity rather than giving presents.
Most shoppers will make their purchases at stores, online, paying with cash and credit cards so it's important to keep track of spending in an effort to stick to the spending plan. Keep receipts with the plan, checking off gifts purchased as you go. The holidays are a time for giving, but that giving needn't lead to unwanted debt or stress. Make a plan. Stick to the plan. Put the cheer back in and keep the debt Grinch out of the holidays.