The holidays may look a little different this year, with more stress and fewer chances to spend time with loved ones. In addition, many people are feeling financially insecure right now, which can add to the stress of holiday shopping and feeling like the need to be generous is at odds with your own personal financial security.
In fact, a recent survey from Credit Karma found that 30% of people are planning to go into debt from holiday spending this year. Going into debt to try and provide gifts for your loved ones isn’t a choice you should have to make. Luckily, there are ways to prevent your holiday shopping from derailing your finances—and even make sure you have some left over for yourself. Here are five tips for smarter seasonal spending.
1. Start with a budget
Just like you wouldn’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, going shopping without a budget is a recipe for disaster. Write down who you’ll be buying gifts for this year and try to stick to a specific amount for each person. It can be easy to overspend if you don’t go into your shopping excursion with specific spending limits. Also be sure to factor in those smaller items that can add up fast like gift wrap or postage fees if you’ll be mailing any gifts.
2. Watch out for upcoming bills
While it’s nice to be generous with your loved ones during the holiday season, you can’t forget to cover your own bases first. Take a look at the bills that will be due between now and the end of the year, and make sure none of them will interfere with your holiday spending. (Psst: did you know Branch can be used to alert you to upcoming bills so you always have a clear picture of your expenses? Read more about it here.) That way, your good intentions to be generous won’t interfere with your basic bills like rent or utilities.
3. Opt for homemade gifts
Aside from your immediate family, are there a lot of people on your list that keep getting added last-minute? (Or did you get an unexpected gift from your neighbor and, er, haven’t returned the favor yet?) Doing something like baking a batch of fresh cookies is equally as festive as purchasing something at a store. Thoughtful, homemade gifts are one way to still be generous without adding last-minute expenses.
4. Be smart about deals—and comparison shop online
Walmart, Best Buy, and Target are all foregoing a single Black Friday event this year and instead are choosing to spread the deals out across the month of November. (Target, for example, has called this “Black Friday Now,” and will offer different sales on different categories of items each week.)
This is intended to prevent a massive crowd or rush on any given day, and will also give you the opportunity to plan ahead for which deals you want to take advantage of. Checking online to compare deals or check for coupons before you buy (whether in-store or online) is always a smart plan.
5. Save a little to treat yourself
For all the beauty of the holidays, they can also be a stressful time. We’re all trying to get more done in less time, and it can be tempting to try and do (and spend) it all. Setting aside some money for yourself to spend on something you truly value can be a nice reward for hitting all those stores, mask-on, to do good deeds for others. What about a cozy new blanket, new tech accessory, or ordering a fancy dinner? Whatever you choose, there’s nothing wrong with saving a bit of your hard earned cash this season for your own holiday joy.
Avoid extra holiday stress by planning your gift-giving budget and spending wisely. The reward will be a calmer season of giving and some room to treat yourself, too. For more seasonal spending tips (and some awesome giveaways!) head here.