According to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Spending Survey, the average person celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa spent $804.42 last year.1

Consider these money-saving, year-round budgeting tips to plan ahead, relieve some financial stress and give you more reasons to celebrate come holiday time.

Make Your Gift List

Calculate how much you can afford for gifts and other holiday expenses (parties, travel, food, decorations, etc.) and keep it real. Base it off the last year’s expenses rather than what you hope to spend. How else will you know what to set aside and save to pay off this year’s holiday bills? Also, knowing your budget for each person on your list makes it easier to shop year-round for great deals on presents they’ll love.

Start Saving Sooner

The best time of year to begin getting a jump on the next holiday season’s expenses is January. Yes, immediately after the last holiday season ends. Put away $10, $15, $25 a week, or whatever it takes to cover the full amount of your total budget based on a weekly savings contribution. Socking away some money each week and paying as you buy is a much smarter (and more cost-effective) option than paying the whole thing off for weeks or months after the bills come in.

Also plan travel as far in advance as possible. Airline tickets around the holidays are expensive in general, so waiting until the last minute to book can cost an arm and a leg (and flights often sell out).

Cash in on Credit Cards with Rewards

Redeeming your credit card rewards for gifts is a terrific way to capitalize on money you’ve already spent. By saving your rewards all year, you can give your holiday budget a big boost without breaking the bank. Discover offers Cashback programs that also include partner gift cards that can help you give even more.

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Stagger Your Purchases

Instead of buying all your gifts as the holidays approach and racking up big bills all at once, spread out your purchases. Buy throughout the year when you see bargains and save on seasonal sales. This also saves you time and trips to the mall during the peak of the holiday season. Be sure to keep a list of items (and where you stashed them in the house) so you don’t forget to wrap up the treasure you found on summer vacation when the snow starts to fall.

Eliminate An Extra

Over the course of the year it is easier to cut back on things you don’t really need. Trying to do that at the end of the year under pressure is too little, too late. Cut back on something that isn’t a necessity every month and earmark what you saved on that cash register ringing indulgence for holiday gifts.

For example, consider making your coffee at home each morning instead of buying from a cafĂ©. If you spend $3 every weekday on to-go coffee, that’s a savings of $780 a year, which is nearly the average holiday cost of $804 a person cited above.

Pay Less for Decorations

Most people don’t think about holiday decorations until it seems like they are being sold everywhere — usually closer to holiday time. That is also the most expensive time to buy them. Instead take advantage of lower off-season prices. For any seasonal items from wreaths to Halloween costumes you can always shop the week after the holiday to pick up goods for the next year at bargain prices.

One way to ensure a happier and financially healthier holiday season is to start thinking about (and preparing for) the holidays long before they arrive. Many people find that pre-planning and having a set budget actually makes holiday shopping a lot more joyful. When you know what you can afford to spend, you can enjoy the fun of fulfilling wishes without dreading the bills come January.

Resources:

1. National Retail Federation \ Consumer Spending Survey Statistic https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/gift-givers-plan-splurge-friends-family-this-holiday-season

2. (Tip 1 – Budget) NerdWallet.com | 5 Ways to Stay On Budget This Holiday Season http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/featured-articles/5-ways-budget-holiday-season/

3. (Tip 3 – Rewards) CreditCards.com | Reward Credit Cards Points Become Great Holiday Gifts http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-reward-points-for-holiday-gifts-1277.php

4. (Tip 1 & 4 – Budget & Purchases) NRF’s Top 5 Tips for Shopping on a Budget https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/nrfs-top-5-tips-shopping-budget

5. (Tip 3 & 5 – Rewards & Extras) NerdWallet.com | 5 Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Debt This Holiday Season http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/tips/5-tips-for-avoiding-credit-card-debt-this-holiday-season/

6. (Tip 6 – Decorations) Wisebread.com | 10 Things You Should Do Now to Get Your Finances in Order for the Holidays http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-should-do-now-to-get-your-finances-in-order-for-the-holidays

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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