A woman with long hair and a santa hat near the window of a city store with purchases paper bags

Prepare Your Wallet for Holiday Spending

Between gifts, decorations, travel, meals, parties, and more, holiday spending can really add up. You’ll want to be prepared ahead of time so you can avoid the typical stress. Or ending up in debt. Serious post-holiday debt happens more often than you might think. But by being prepared, you can actually relax and have fun during the holidays! Read on for some tips on how to prepare your wallet ahead of time.

Set Up a Savings Account Just for Holiday Spending

The earlier you start, the more you’ll save. It’s much easier to put aside a percentage each month than to suddenly come up with hundreds or thousands of dollars right before the holidays. Think about taking a specific amount of money from each paycheck throughout the year. You can do this yourself, but an even better way to save is to set up for automatic deduction into a Christmas Club account. These side savings accounts are generally offered through your bank.

Another benefit of Christmas Club accounts is that usually funds can’t be withdrawn until November. So you won’t be tempted to spend the money you’ve saved on something other than holiday spending. By the time the holidays come around, you’ll see that this really pays off.

Look over your regular budget and monthly expenses. See if there’s something you can change or give up that will help you to spend less. For example, give up a daily Starbucks run and make coffee at home instead. Or try cooking more and getting takeout less. Every little bit can make a difference! And it doesn’t need to be for long. Even giving up extra spending for just a couple of months can end up turning into a lot of savings. However, doing so ahead of time is key, and you definitely don’t want to wait until December.

Also, be sure to track your spending throughout the year. This is a great way to make sure you actually stay within your budget. And it will help you to avoid any “do I have the money in my budget to afford this” concerns while you’re shopping.

Set a Holiday Spending Limit

It might be hard to predict exactly what the cost of certain items will be, but having a limit can stop you from going overboard. You can even set a limit for each category, such as decorations and food, or for each person you’re buying gifts for. See if your family members want to set a spending cap for gifts, such as $30 per person. You can also propose a family Secret Santa gift exchange so you only have to buy a gift for one person. If your whole family is involved, everyone will be able to save!

Look at your holiday spending from the previous year. This will help you come up with a feasible holiday spending limit. Were there any areas where you overpaid? What do you want to improve on this year? What expenses ended up being unnecessary? Looking at how much you spent last year will also give you a good idea of how much money you should be aiming to save ahead of time.

Make a List of Your Expected Holiday Expenses as Early as Possible

This doesn’t just include gifts, but also decorations, wrapping paper, cards, a tree, food, etc. If you plan ahead of time, you could avoid impulse buys. When shopping without a list, it’s much easier to be tempted to overspend. Once you’re in a store, only stay in the sections where the items of your list are. And make sure to track your purchases as well. For the gifts you plan to give, an Excel spreadsheet can be very helpful.

While you’re making this list, see if there are any areas where you can save. One popular option is to make homemade gifts, such as food, a knit scarf, or an art project, instead of purchasing something. Sometimes a homemade sentimental gift, such as a photo album, can mean so much more than an item bought from a store.

Come Up with Gifts Ahead of Time

Coming up with gifts ahead of time is also a great idea in case the items are available at a lower price early on. If you see a great deal on a gift you were planning to give before the holiday shopping season, purchase it early. Even if it’s as early as a summer, back-to-school, or Labor Day sale. If you wait too long, the price could go back up or it could end up being sold out. You can also try price tracking to make sure you get the absolute best deal on certain items. There are certain apps for this that will alert you. Too many people wait until December to buy gifts, but you don’t need the stress of trying to find a perfect gift at the last minute.

Do a Little Extra

Keep your extra change in a coin jar throughout the year and cash it in once it’s full. Adding up your change over time can end up being more money than you might expect.

you have the time and energy to do so, consider getting an extra seasonal position. As great as saving can be, making more money can be even better! If you don’t have time for an extra job, there are still other ways to make extra bucks, such as a yard sale.

Do you need to travel for the holidays? Book your flights and/or hotel rooms as early as possible. Usually, the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. Especially around the holidays, where airlines and hotels can overcharge because they know people will pay anything.

Finally, see if you can save some money for the post-holiday clearance sales. These can offer huge savings, and you might even find gifts for next year!

The last thing you need during this time of year is money-related stress ruining your holiday cheer. When you follow these tips, you can avoid a shock when you see how much you spend after the holidays are over. Central Willamette Credit Union has more money-saving tips. Here’s to very happy holidays!