Spending time with loved ones and reflecting on all of the blessings the previous year has bestowed is a great way to celebrate the holiday season. But giving, entertaining and traveling are part of the season as well, and that can leave many people wondering how to finance their holiday season.
Many people admit to spending more than they initially intended to spend during the holiday season, leaving them with sizable bills to pay come January. This trend is dubbed the ‘holiday hangover,’ and Magnify Money found that Americans racked up an average of $1,054 of debt during the 2017 holiday season, a 5 percent increase over 2016.
Recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says consumer credit card debt stands at $808 billion. A portion of that ongoing debt is accumulated during the holidays – but it doesn’t have to be. By establishing a budget and a plan to pay down their debt, consumers can gift without grief.
The first step to establishing a holiday shopping budget is to make a list of all the people with whom you intend to exchange gifts. Jot down charitable gifts and entertaining/social expenses as well. With paper in hand, it can be easier to visualize just how many people are on the gift list, making it easier to allot a certain amount to each person. Friends and coworkers may receive less than family members.
Next think about a total dollar amount to earmark for the holidays. This amount is something that you should be able to comfortably pay off in full at the end of the holiday season – no more than a month or two after New Year’s Day.
Do not feel obligated to purchase more than one gift for each person on your list. Parents who want to have a few extra items under the tree for their children or who have to finance presents from Santa Claus can set aside more money to make such purchases. However, these gifts should also be factored into the overall budget.
It’s important to keep track of spending even after the budget has been created. This way you can see if you are adhering to your budget. Record gifts as you would checks in a register. Take home receipts and tally your spending to see if it aligns. Make adjustments as necessary if you are on track to go over your budget.
When budgeting, keep in mind the potentially inflated costs of hot items for the year. It can be tempting to splurge on the latest video game console, but will it be obsolete in a few months? Budgeting and frugal buying go hand-in-hand.
Budgets do not need to remain fixed from year to year. If this year was a banner year in terms of finances, you may be able to afford more. If it wasn’t, you may have to cut back. True friends and close family members should understand that the value of the gift is not based on its price tag.