According to the American Research Group, Inc., in 2015, American shoppers planned to spend an average of $882 on holiday gifts alone, and there are many more holiday expenses that can sneak up and bust your budget if you’re not careful. Here are five strategies that can help you stay in control without having to sacrifice any “merry.”
- Plan to Travel Before (or After) the Holiday
Holiday travel can take a big bite out of your budget. According to the Huffington Post, in 2015 it was 75 percent more expensive to fly during the holidays than to fly the same route at any other time of the year.
To beat prices that rise due to demand, try traveling a bit before the holiday. This could mean visiting family the week before Christmas, for example, and celebrating together a little early.
Along with saving money, beating the holiday travel rush might also benefit you at work. Requesting and receiving time off could be easier since many people look to do so closer to the actual holiday.
- Shop Sooner
The earlier you buy holiday gifts, decor and festive supplies for parties and get-togethers, the more flexibility and choice you’ll have. Shopping sooner means you’ll have more time to shop sales or wait for deals and discounts. For example, if you have your gift list ready early, you can take advantage of Black Friday and other holiday sales, such as Cyber Monday. This could help keep holiday expenses lower since you won’t find yourself forced to make a purchase simply because you ran out of time.
- Get Creative
If you want to treat your family, friends and coworkers this season and stay on budget, it may be time to get creative.
A homemade gift can be even more meaningful than a store-bought one — and easier on the wallet. Do you have a knack for baking or carpentry? Are you an expert knitter? Consider making some of your gifts this year. Your loved ones will likely appreciate the thoughtfulness of a unique gift that you’ve taken the time to make yourself.
If arts and crafts aren’t your thing, don’t worry. You can still take a creative approach to gift-giving. For example, instead of buying a gift for everyone at the office, you could suggest a fun event like a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift swap. When it comes to family members, you could join forces with your siblings to buy mom and dad a joint gift. Or you could start a new festive holiday tradition and replace a gift exchange with a family event like a potluck dinner or a big bake-off and cookie swap.
With a little creativity, you’ll be able to show everyone on your gift list some love, and you may even kick off a new holiday tradition that will leave your loved ones with memories to cherish for years to come.
- Budget Throughout the Year
You can cut holiday expenses, but you’re not likely to eliminate them entirely, so it’s helpful to plan ahead as far in advance as possible. Try to estimate how much you will need to spend during the holiday season. You can then use an app such as Mint.com to set a monthly savings goal and track your progress.
This gives you a small savings goal to hit each month so you’ll have a robust holiday fund to use by the end of the year. This can reduce the stress of trying to fit many additional costs into your normal monthly budget all at once.
- Know Your Limitations
It’s really easy to spend money during the holidays. Between all the events, parties and other seasonal celebrations, costs can quickly spiral and get out of hand. Remember that you don’t have to say “yes” to everything. There’s nothing wrong with politely declining your spouse’s coworker’s party invitation — especially if you’d feel obligated to pick up a new outfit and hostess gift if you attended.
Celebrating and shopping earlier this season, getting creative and exercising your right to say, “No, thanks,” can save you money and help you enjoy a fun, festive and affordable holiday season. And, when it’s time to choose a New Year’s resolution, consider starting a holiday savings stash so you’re ready for next year’s celebration.