During the holiday season, it’s easy to get into a generous spirit. You buy presents, host big parties and dinners, and travel to visit faraway relatives. But like a hangover, the bills that you see a few days after the holidays might make you wish the holidays never happened.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to spend the entire next year paying off your bills so that you can afford gifts for next Christmas. Here are five tips that can help you with your holiday finances:
It’s much easier to impulse shop. And it feels good to simply arrive at the mall, quickly get whatever you need, and buy items on the spur-of-the-moment that you think will make great gifts. Instead, stick to a budget. When budgeting, make a list of people who will receive a gift from you. Then set a budget limit for each person. For example, you might want to spend an equal amount of money on each of your children or siblings. The hard part is sticking to that budget. But if you plan ahead, it’s much easier to stick to a specific dollar figure.
More money spent doesn’t mean more heartfelt gifts.
Unfortunately, many people are led to believe that an expensive TV or toy means showing more love. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many heartfelt gifts can be relatively inexpensive and creative. If you’re a great cook, make someone their favorite food. If you’re excellent at an art or craft, give someone a painting or a quilt that you made. You can even do something together like go out to eat at a nice restaurant, take a day trip to a neat location, or go shopping together. Remember, spending a lot of money doesn’t substitute for time spent strengthening relationships with your friends and family—and you can do that by sharing inexpensive or homemade signs of affection and love with them.
Limit or avoid using credit cards.
If you load up your credit cards during the holiday season, it may take a long time to pay the debt off. The longer you take to pay it off, the more interest you will pay. Consider paying for as many gifts, purchases, and services as possible through cash, debit card, or check. If you do charge a lot of your purchases on your credit cards, pay it off as quickly as possible to avoid paying hefty interest and late fees.
Research before buying your most expensive gifts.
It might be tempting to walk into an electronics or department store and quickly buy something that looks great to you. A salesperson may even talk you into something if you’re in a hurry. Resist the temptation of an impulse buy by doing research beforehand. Compare prices online, look for deals, and ask friends and family members for advice. In some cases, you might want to wait until after the holiday season ends to get better deals.
Book flights early and on the best days.
The later you book a flight, the more expensive it’s likely to be. Airline ticket prices fluctuate a lot but are based on supply and demand. The closer you get to the date you want to fly, the more it’s likely to cost you. Plus, there are better days to buy tickets and fly that can save you money. According to a recent USA Today article:
- Avoid flying midday (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), as well as on Fridays, Saturdays, and all bank holidays (except Thanksgiving and Christmas).
- Instead fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or any day after 6 p.m.
- Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are also inexpensive days to fly.
Interestingly, the study also says that airline tickets are cheapest 53 days before your departure date. If you plan that far ahead, you might be able to get a great deal.
Remember, the holidays aren’t just about money and spending. They’re about spending time with friends and family while taking a breather from the pressures of work and life. Budget, watch your spending and look for deals while keeping your focus on the true spirit of the holiday season.