The holiday season is fast approaching and with it are the parties, presents, and family get-togethers. After the holiday season, many people make New Year’s resolutions to spend less and save more.
Consider committing now to staying disciplined with your spending this holiday season. These four simple steps may help you prepare financially and stay out of debt before the new year approaches.
1. Have a “Good” Plan
A bad plan is often better than no plan, but a good plan can make a huge difference.
There are many reasons to think ahead for your holiday spending:
- Last minute travel is significantly more expensive than if you book in advance.
- Sale prices can make a big difference in how much you spend.
- Hot-ticket items get sold out before the holidays.
- It is easy to make impulse buys if you do not know what you are looking for.
Many people plan on getting these tasks done early but often end up waiting until the last minute. This is known as the planning fallacy, i.e. the tendency for people to be overly optimistic about how long it will take them to complete a task or how much money they will spend.
To overcome the planning fallacy, write down when you think you will have the tasks on your plan completed. Then, look up when you completed the tasks on your plan last year. Your actual outcomes will more likely be closer to last year’s numbers than your guess for this year.
For example, if you realize last year you bought flights at the last minute, chances are you will be closer to buying flights last minute than buying early. Think about setting calendar reminders to buy your flights early or, better yet, consider buying now to save money.
2. Have a Budget
If you are trying to stay disciplined with your money this holiday season, a budget is a must. However, following through on your budget is another matter. Again, comparing what you actually spent last year to what you think you will spend this year is a good start to determine if your budget is unrealistic.
Another strategy is to budget all of your expenses and leave some money for last minute expenses, the unexpected or impulse buys. Having a buffer in your budget will make it easier to not exceed your limit.
It is important to note that while budgets can feel limiting, they can also open your mind to opportunities you did not consider. While presents are nice, they are quickly forgotten. Science has shown that quality time and experiences make people happier both in the moment and in the long run.
Not only is having a budget a key money saving tip for the holidays, it could lead to some creative gift-giving.
3. Check Online for Coupons
It used to be that you had to get the Sunday newspaper to find coupons. Now you can use websites such as RetailMeNot.com or Coupons.com to find coupons for both online and in-person shopping.
Also, if shopping online, many stores offer single item 20% off discounts or similar if you sign up for their email newsletter.
4. Use Cash
Another way to stay disciplined, and stay out of debt, is to keep your holiday budget in cash in an envelope. Studies have shown that you are less likely to overspend paying with cash, as handing over paper bills makes your spending feel tangible. Just make sure you use a bank with no-fee ATMs so withdrawing that cash does not cost you anything.
With all of your holiday budget in one place, you can easily see when you are running low. When the envelope is finally empty, you know it is time to stop spending. With a little planning ahead, you may be able to save money this holiday season and help your dollars go a little further.