Monday, November 27, 2017

Don’t Break Your Budget This Holiday

With the holiday seasons coming up, finances could be very stressful for many families, with pressure (either externally or from within) to buy the nicest presents, do the nicest things, which can certainly take a toll on your pocketbook. My plans? To get all the gifts from, and mainly get gifts for the entire family to enjoy (I got two Perplexus maze balls and the game Sushi Go, among other things.) Here are some more tips from a reader about how to save money this holiday season.

When the season’s all about proving your generosity by spoiling the ones you love, the holidays pose a huge challenge to anyone on a budget. The average American spends more than $900 on the season, but your wallet isn’t prepared for that kind of responsibility.

Between the gifts under the tree, the family feast, and the cost of travel, the festivities can take a chunk out of your budget whether you’re ready or not. If you count yourself amongst those struggling to celebrate the holidays, then you’ve come to the right place. You can get the most out of the season without breaking the bank by following these strategic steps.

1. Communicate

Don’t go into the season blind. If you don’t discuss the holidays beforehand, it’s easy to assume a lot of things about your family’s expectations, and you’re usually way off the mark. Before you feel forced to act as host for the entire family and rely on your credit cards to get everyone stocking stuffers on top of gifts, just ask them: what do they really want out of the season?

Conversations can be hard when money is involved, but it’s worth it. Once you get past the initial discomfort, you’ll find most of your worries around the discussion were unsubstantiated. Your talk might even reveal they’re facing similar hardships. Hash it out and arrive at plans that work with both of your budgets, like a potluck dinner or Secret Santa exchange to distribute the responsibilities and cost of celebrating.

2. Save Early

The holidays roll around every December, without fail. Like the rent, auto insurance, and personal loans you pay each month, you can’t claim ignorance about the holiday’s “due dates”. The festive season is going to be a regular occurrence in your finances, so you need to start treating it like a regular expense.

Budget for the holidays as soon as you can. When you start early, you can siphon small amounts of cash from other parts of your budget without feeling like your sacrificing much. It can be as simple as cutting your weekly Starbucks run in half and setting aside the money you save in a holiday fund.
Before you can identify your venti half-caf Americano misto as a drain on your cash, you need to take stock of your money’s coming and goings. This means you’ll have to create a household budget to see what spending you can realistically cut out to prepare for the season. Don’t worry if you haven’t made one before. You can find articles to help you budget for special occasions and everyday life online.

Once you have this financial plan in hand, you’ll be able to see where every dollar of your income is going. It outlines the less-than-necessary spending habits that prevent you from spoiling your family, so you won’t have to wonder where you need to cutback to deliver on the holidays.

3. Be coupon-proud

In a world caught up by the Kardashians, it’s easy to equate the cost of something with its true value. All too often we believe that if something is expensive, then it must be exceptionally good. That’s not always necessarily true. Though Tim Cook would like you to believe you need to spend $999 to get the best phone on the market, you can opt for a modest handset and get everything you need at a much lower price.

Paying full price on a costly item (say that iPhone X) is only practical when you can foot the bill. If you end up maxing out credit cards and risking your finances to give lavish presents, then you’re dooming your New Year to debt. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck perusing the CVS aisles for gifts. Just because an item is usually outside of your budget doesn’t mean you can’t always afford it.

Thanks to websites like Groupon, Woot, and Yipit, you won’t have to pay full price for gifts. With some careful sifting, you may just find your golden ticket in a coupon that gets you 50 percent off the cost of your present, a discount on theater tickets, or a reduction on a family outing.

Don’t feel embarrassed about using these coupon sites. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. According to RetailMeNot, 96 percent of the nation uses them. It shows resourcefulness during difficult times, and if you’re lucky, you can get the people on your list exactly what they want without wasting money. Now that’s a win-win!

The holidays can be awkward for many reasons. Don’t let using coupons join the list. It’s easy to overspend without them, which is exactly what you want to prevent this year. Use this guide to help keep the holidays on track, and your finances won’t be vying for the most awkward thing about the festivities with your uncle’s conversation about Trump over turkey.

See my disclaimer.