The holiday season is upon us, and during this frenzied and festive time of year, when so much emphasis is placed on gift-giving, it can be easy to overspend.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail spending over November and December this year is estimated to increase by 4%, for a total of around $730 billion. If you don’t want to start your new year digging out from under a mountain of holiday debt, there are a number of ways to keep your spending under control. Here’s some advice to consider:
Set a holiday budget and stick to it
Create a list of all your holiday gift recipients and determine how much you’re willing to spend on each person. Don’t forget to budget for additional holiday expenses like food, decorations, travel, and family activities. Once you know how much you’re comfortable spending you can enjoy the holidays with much less stress.
It’s one thing to create a budget and another to stick to it. Some people find that putting cash in envelopes helps manage gift spending – once the cash is gone, you’re done shopping. This also prevents you from running up interest fees on credit card payments. This method doesn’t work for online shopping, however, and doesn’t allow you to take advantage of reward points, cash back, or other credit card bonuses.
Successfully navigate sales
Make the most of your dollar by taking advantage of big sales this holiday season. Just make sure you come prepared. Know your target list, your budget, and your backups.
- Black Friday – This signature shopping day saw 77 million people in-stores last year, so be prepared for crowds. Black Friday shopping pays off the most if you’re searching for deep discounts on big ticket items (known as doorbusters) like household appliances, TVs, and other electronics. If you venture out, have a plan for what you want and where you are going to get it. Have a few back up stores in mind, as the popular items can sell out quickly.
- Cyber Monday -This online shopping counterpart comes the Monday after Thanksgiving and offers more site-wide or category-wide discounts than Black Friday. You can get great deals on apparel, beauty products, Apple products/electronics, and even airfare on Cyber Monday. You can also stock up on items you normally buy online at a good discount. Just make sure to do your research, and don’t forget to pay attention to shipping costs.
Avoid impulse buys
When you’re out in the crowds and desperately searching for that perfect gift, it can be easy to give in to impulse buys that cost more than you would normally want to spend. To avoid this, it’s best to start holiday shopping as early as you can. Also, think ahead about what you want to buy for each person so you can begin looking for deals, coupons, or promo codes. Fortunately, there are a number of popular deal finder apps, shopping comparison sites, etc. that can make finding the best deal a snap. Check out these popular options:
- Flipp – Cut the paper clutter. This app consolidates all the coupons from local flyers and ads – like Walmart, Target, Lowes, Macy’s, etc. as well as online deals – and lets you “clip” the coupons to create a smart shopping list.
Shop Savvy – This app allows you to scan a bar code in-store to compare pricing and find the best deal on that item – both online and in-store. It will also make additional product recommendations based on a massive database of customer reviews. This is a great way to find the best deals on the best products.
Camelcamelcamel – If you do most of your online shopping on Amazon, this free Amazon price tracker can monitor any products that you are interested in and notify you via email or Twitter when the price of those items drops.
Honey – Honey, a browser extension for Chrome, is ideal for the online, at-home shopper. You simply download the app, shop as you normally would online, and Honey will automatically find and apply coupon or promo codes to your purchase. In 2017, Honey saved its users over $170 million from promo code discounts.
Pick budget-friendly activities
The holidays are a time for making memories, but that doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. Think about establishing some fun, cost-effective traditions like driving around and looking at holiday lights or baking cookies together. Manage entertaining expenses by having a potluck meal when you get together.
Start saving early
Perhaps the best thing you can do to control holiday spending is to plan ahead. Create a holiday savings account that you contribute to throughout the year, and limit yourself to not spending more than what you’ve saved in that account. You can open a Valley Holiday Club Account for low minimum deposits of $10, $20, $25 or $50, and upon maturity, can have those funds either direct deposited to you or mailed to you by check.
The holiday season should be a fun and festive time of year, not a time to stress, overspend and bury yourself in debt. Be a smart spender this year. It will make for a happier, more worry-free holiday season.