With the holiday season in full swing, temptations to overspend abound. From all the gifts we intend to purchase for family and friends, to all the parties we might be hosting or attending, to vacations we might be planning to take, there are plenty of opportunities to throw out your budget and overly indulge in the spirit of the season.
Of course, it is perfectly understandable. In this time of fun and celebration, it is easy to feel big-hearted and generous, and to depart from common-sense spending habits. But what you would like to avoid is going from a season of joy in December to a season of regret in January, when the credit card bills come due.
So to help you circumvent that kind of distress, I’ve put together a list of things to consider to help you stay on track during this holiday season:
Budget, budget, budget – How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you avoid excessively high credit card bills in January? Budget, budget, budget. Based on your income level, budget precisely how much you can afford to spend on gifts, travel, clothes, parties, food and drink, etc. and then stick to it. In doing so, you will be able to enjoy the holidays even more, knowing that you are not putting your finances at risk.
Making a list and checking it twice – Part of preparing a sensible budget includes knowing who you are buying for. Again, there is a temptation to want to splurge and to buy gifts for neighbors, co-workers, the mailman, etc. Though the impulse for generosity is admirable, it is best to make a list of the people you can realistically afford to buy for – and stick to it!
Spread the joy – Some people love to entertain during the holidays but it can be expensive, especially if the hosts are bearing all the costs. As an alternative, why not ask your guests to bring something to the party – their favorite appetizer, beverage or dessert. Most people are more than willing to do this; plus, it enhances their participation in the festivities.
Know your limits – This is a very good time to check your credit card balances and to know exactly how much available credit you have to spend. For sure, you do not want to exceed your credit limits and suffer the consequences of punitive fees and penalties.
Be a smart shopper – If you’re willing to be creative, there are several ways you can buy the gifts you want and save money in the process. Why not redeem all the points you’ve earned throughout the year on your rewards credit card?
Some credit card companies even have online shopping sites where those points can be easily exchanged for gifts. Or why not use the gift cards you received last year to buy presents this year for family and friends? Or why not use all your accumulated frequent flyer miles to pay for your holiday flight? Also, take advantage of valuable shopping apps that allow you to instantly compare prices on the gifts you are thinking of buying. You might be able to save money by purchasing from another store or by buying online. It truly pays to be a smart shopper.
The season of joy, not the season of stress – For some people, the holidays can be a hectic time. Between work parties, or your children’s school parties, or entertaining or travel, or the non-stop shopping extravaganza, stress levels can definitely rise during the holiday season. Remember, this is a season of joy, not a season of stress. Take the time to give yourself a break – to relax, recoup and recover – so that you can fully enjoy all the many delights the holiday season offers.