How many times in the past have you been strapped for cash during the holidays? Do holidays always seem to come at the worst times, when you have a month of unexpected expenses or cash emergencies? Have you repeatedly wished that you could turn back the clock and plan ahead for the extra costs related to gifts and holidays? Managing the extra expenses is totally achievable. Here are some ideas to consider for smart ways to budget for gifts and holidays.
Be Aware of Developing Situations
This strategy isn’t as ominous as it sounds. It simply means to be mindful of likely events coming up in the near future. Did your niece recently announce that she’s expecting? Start putting a few dollars away in an envelope now so you’re ready to buy a baby shower gift and/or outfit in the coming months. Has your granddaughter recently gotten engaged? A year from now you’ll be glad you started saving early so you could give her and her new husband a nice wedding gift. If you start early enough, the incremental amounts you need to put in won’t be much, and you’ll hardly notice a difference in your daily/monthly budget.
Be Ready For Recurring Events
Birthdays come around every year. Thanksgiving is going to come again this year, just like clockwork. The twelve days of Christmas are rolling around sooner than you think, and your boss’s son’s Bar Mitzvah party is certain, as soon as the boy turns 13 years old in eight months. One of the easiest ways to budget for recurring events is to simply keep a calendar and set reminders. New Year’s Day doesn’t “sneak up on you” at all. It’s been in the same place for eons. You’re the one who wasn’t watching the calendar. So right now, set up your calendar with the holidays that are important to you. It doesn’t matter if you use an online calendar, your computer software calendar or a paper calendar hanging in your kitchen. Decide how much you want to have available to spend for the holiday or event. Count backward the number of days you have left to save. Have your budget handy and determine—realistically—how much you can afford to save every day/week or month for those special days. When the day arrives, you’ll be so grateful that you took steps early.
Set a Limit and Stick to It
You’re not alone. When the holiday season comes along, it’s so hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the season. Whether you’re celebrating Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Christmas, Thanksgiving, it’s often impossible to quell the urge to spend. The trouble is, these urges can quickly wreak havoc with your budget. And, wonderful as holidays are, they aren’t worth going into debt for. The temptation is to just pull out the credit card and hope for the best come January when the bill rolls in. You can avoid that sinking feeling of opening up your first credit card statement after the New Year by setting hard spending limits for yourself. Everyone will have a different comfort threshold for spending during the holidays. But that limit must fit easily into what you can afford. And, of course, once you set that limit, stick to it.
Don’t Be Enchanted by the Sparkly
If you go into any store post-Thanksgiving, you’ll be surrounded by shiny, sparkling things that would look beautiful in your home. You want to make your home look as full of holiday cheer as your favorite holiday movies, your favorite stores and your idealized images of what the holidays are all about. It’s okay to succumb to a few new baubles each year. Just don’t let yourself become so enchanted that you bring home a bunch of “stuff” that you’ll regret buying later. If you want to buy a set of cute plastic poinsettia candle rings, go right ahead. Just stop and think about where you’re going to store them after the holidays and whether your holiday will be any less cheery if you didn’t buy them. One smart way to stay within your means during holidays is to visit stores more often. Enjoy all the sparkle. Immerse yourself in it. Then walk away and leave the sparkle at the store. Come home and feel great knowing that you didn’t overspend and you have enough to pay your bills and put money into your savings account.
Avoid the Abundance Trap
Not everyone struggles to pay for gifts and holidays. These days, with so many affluent “influencers” and crypto millionaires, a lot of people have plenty of money to spend on the things they desire, including non-essentials and luxury goods. But this is another kind of trap to avoid. Knowing that you have “plenty” can make you spend like a drunken sailor, so to speak. The sky’s the limit, right? If you see something you like, you buy it. But that’s not smart fiscal spending. If you talked to your CPA, they could think of all kinds of different ways to make that extra money work for you. Imagine having a lifetime of financial security instead of spending a bunch of money on things that will just collect dust? You don’t have to “top” what you did last year during the holidays. No one’s expecting a live band at your annual Christmas party. Certainly, no one’s expecting Miley Cyrus to sing at your daughter’s birthday party. If you are fortunate to have abundance, try using those resources for something more long-lasting than the most extravagant holiday party of the year.
If you keep all these things in mind during the gift-giving and holiday events throughout the year, your special times will be all the more sweet. Financial security is worth more than all the frosted ornaments and gilded presents in the world. For help keeping your finances in control, consult with your CPA.