During the holidays, it’s easy to get carried away with spending. I understand. In a way, it’s a reflection of your abundance—you have lots of family and friends that you care about and you want to purchase something for each of them, attend all their gatherings, and be as generous as possible. Sure, it’s fun to buy presents or hosting gifts for people and see them light up when they receive them.
I get it. Material gifts have their place (and they can also be skipped or replaced by nonmaterial gifts in some instances—see my blog post on “The Mindful Holiday Season”).
The not-so-fun part happens when you get your credit card bill sometime in January. Ouch. Not a great way to start the New Year!
How can you stem the endless flow of spend-spend-spend during the holiday season? Try these 4 tips:
Set a budget
Though it may seem tedious or dull, it is crucial to set a holiday spending budget. If you use a credit card, set a budget that you’ll be able to pay off next month. It’s not worth it to spend more than you have, as you’ll feel the residual ripples for months (or years!) to come. If you’re cramped for cash and stuck between buying a $50 bottle of wine for a host or a $10 bottle, go for the $10 option. Your host will probably simply appreciate the gesture and you won’t put yourself in financial strife over a little bit of swallowed pride.
If you’re buying for family, co-workers, and/or friends, consider setting a budget for each person.
Don’t buy presents for the whole world
Yes, you want to show people you care this holiday season. No, you don’t have to get everyone a gift. Consider buying an experience that you and your friends could share (a trip to a conservatory, an ice skating package, etc.) or opt to spend time instead of money. Your made-from-scratch cookies, jars of jelly, or homemade bath salts show your friends and co-workers that you’re thinking of them…and that’s what really counts.
Use a tracking tool
It’s easy to lose track of spending, especially when you make multiple stops during a single outing. Take advantage of automated spending through apps like Mint or BillGuard. These tools categorize your spending and provide charts that give you a breakdown of where your money is going. More on this in my “Tracking Your Spending” blog post.
Walk into a store with a plan
If you tend to wander aimlessly during your shopping trips, you might end up spending your money on any odds or ends that strike your fancy, and those little purchases can add up! Walk into a retail shop with at least the semblance of a plan. At the very least, know who you’re shopping for and your budget.
Be mindful of food and beverage purchases
It’s incredibly easy to wave off food and beverages purchases and not add them to your holiday spending tally. However, these are some of the most common purchases you’ll make during the season! With potlucks, family get-togethers, and office treats, those tins of popcorn and bottles of wine tend to add up! Include food and bev in your overall budget and be savvy about your purchases. If you have a little time, try making a carrot cake instead of buying one, or slice up your veggies instead of splurging for the pre-sliced ones.
Start with one small change
If all of this budgeting and thrift seems overwhelming to you, start with one small change. Give up a minor luxury (order a plain latte, instead of a flavored one; resist buying new mittens when you already have a perfectly good pair) or look for areas where you can spend a little less (go out to lunch with friends, instead of dinner).
Remember, the holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing, not stressful. Doing a little pre-holiday budget planning can help alleviate some of that stress. Ideally, once you have your plan in place, you’ll be able to actually enjoy the season, instead of shooting in the dark and blindly hoping you won’t spend beyond your means.