'Tis the season for giving, but the costs for giving can add up quickly. It’s also very easy to get carried away with your spending. But shopping for the holidays doesn’t have to be a huge financial burden. To keep your spending under control this year try making a plan. Here are some tips on how to holiday shop on a budget.
Set a Budget and Stick to it
The first question you should ask yourself is “how much can I afford to spend on gifts?” It’s important to set a realistic spending limit and a budget will help you do that. A budget is a great way to allocate funds and track spending. Make sure you make the budget specific. Try breaking down your budget into spending categories, then set spending goals for each. Track the amount you buy to make sure you don’t overspend. Budget categories should include:
- Gift wrap
- Postage and shipping costs
- Christmas cards
- Holiday meals
- Travel expenses
- Holiday clothing
- Charitable donations
There are a variety of online sites like queenoffree.com offer free budget forms to get you started.
Prioritize Your Gift List
When shopping on a budget, you should make a list of the people you want to give gifts to, in order of priority. Start with those you most want to shop for and work backward. Immediate family will usually top your list first, followed by close friends, relatives and co-workers. Not everyone on your list should receive the same level of gift, so it’s okay to set different spending limits for each. Once you have a list of gift recipients, add ideas for potential gifts for each person and keep track of costs.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Many people get swept up in the holiday spirit, especially when everything is discounted. Try and avoid the temptation to buy extra items for people on your gift list or, more importantly, for yourself. Stay on list so your spending doesn’t spiral out of control.
Search for Discounts
Sticking to your list doesn’t mean you have to avoid sales. Many stores offer deals on the items you’re looking for during the holidays. Popular online stores like Amazon.com, for example, offer daily bargains if you look for them. The Amazon Discount Finder tool can help you save quite a bit of money.
Avoid Unnecessary Expenses
You don’t have to buy expensive wrapping paper, bows, ribbons or other embellishments. Sure, those add-ons look fancy and they might not seem like a huge expense, but the cost adds up quickly and all that extra bling just ends up in the trash. Keep your giftwrapping simple and save yourself a few bucks.
Plan for Next Year
After the holidays, consider getting a jumpstart on next year by taking advantage of post-holiday sales. The weeks after the holidays are a great time to stock up on wrapping paper, decorations and other items because retailers are looking to move their holiday stock at huge discount prices.