I realize that it is September and I am already talking about Christmas. However, Hobby Lobby have had Christmas decorations out since June so I am actually late to the game!
The holiday season should be filled with joy, too many Christmas cookies and what feels like no free time because of all of the parties that you plan to go to. That’s how it should be. But that isn’t always the case because of the financial burden that the holidays can put on you and your wallet.
You have what feels like an endless list of gifts to buy. You have to bring food or a drink to every event that you attend. And of course you can’t wear the same outfit to every event so there is clothing shopping to do.
I am getting anxious and itchy just thinking about all of the money that is spent during the holiday season. (Fun side note: money problems make me itch! No hives but I definitely start scratching for no reason when I think about impending money issues!)
So what can you do to prevent feeling overwhelmed and broke during this year’s holiday season? You could become a hermit and decline to give any gifts out and you definitely aren’t going to any holiday parties, even if your family from 5+ hours away is in town.
Yeah, I don’t even have to think about it. That option is definitely a no-go for me too!
The solution that I would recommend to you instead is that you plan ahead. This sounds simple and really it is. The key to making this work is training your brain or your bank account to be thinking about the holiday season all year round.
1. PLAN AHEAD FINANCIALLY
You shouldn’t start saving for the holidays in November. You really shouldn’t even start in September. Ideally you would start in January. But we are taking baby steps here!
If you aren’t following my logic, let me give you an example. You know that you usually spend $600 extra during the holiday season. December rolls up and you somehow have to find $600 in your budget to spend on those expenses. Wouldn’t it have been easier and less stressful to start in January and save only $50 a month?
Better yet, setup a separate savings account for holiday expenses only. Create an automatic deduction from each paycheck to have it deposited into that savings account. This makes saving for the holiday season automatic and you don’t even have to think about it!
This holiday season make sure that you keep track of your expenses for holiday related purchases. Track what you spend on gifts, on food, on clothes, on alcohol (because it is the holiday season… no judging here :)), decorations or anything else that you buy that is out of your ordinary spending. This will make planning for next year even easier because you will have a better idea of how much you need to save going forward.
The key here is to start saving money NOW. To use the previous example, if you normally spend $600 during the holiday season on holiday related expenses then that means that you need to start saving $150 a month now, in September.
2. PLAN AHEAD WITH GIFTS
This step is a little trickier than planning ahead financially for the holiday season but definitely worth trying! It is similar to financial planning in that you are preparing for the holiday season all year round instead of just in December. What if you purchased 1-2 gifts every month during the year? You wouldn’t give them to the recipients until December. This way your gift giving is less stressful for your mental health and for your wallet.
Designate a special closet or area in your home for where you will store the gifts. If you have some sneaky family members then you may want to wrap the gifts before you put them in the closet. You may want to wrap the gifts anyways just so that you are even farther ahead of schedule when the holidays roll around.
This also allows you to watch for sales on items all year long, instead of starting on Black Friday in November.
The tricky part is that you risk purchasing a gift for someone and then they receive that same gift from someone else for their birthday, or they buy it themselves at any point during the year. Try to plan it so that you are buying Uncle Joe’s gift for him AFTER his birthday. Or, maybe you only purchase 3 gifts during the year out of the 15 total that you need to buy.
The good news is that you could combine this tip along with the financial planning tip! These tips are exclusive and actually work better when they are combined!
3. BONUS TIP: PAY WITH SWAGBUCKS REWARDS
What’s better than being prepared for the holiday season? Having to pay less money out of your pocket for the holidays! I use Swagbucks all year and use my rewards to get gift cards to retailers like Target and Sam’s Club that I can use to help purchase gifts or food during the holiday season.
If you aren’t sure what Swagbucks is or have never heard of it, check out my post: What is Swagbucks and Why You Need to Start Using it Immediately. I share tips on how to earn money with Swagbucks.
You get “Swagbucks” from watching videos, completing surveys, using their search engine and other activities. You then use the swagbucks to get gift cards for hundreds of different companies. If you make online purchases through their shop section, you will earn swagbucks for making a purchase.
Have I convinced you yet to sign up for and start using Swagbucks yet? Did I mention that it is completely free to sign up? Click here to get started!