The holiday season is fast approaching, a fact alone that may already have alarm bells ringing in your head. With its arrival comes the return of holiday shopping, and if you have an expansive list of people to buy for, it may very well mean another sizable debt that takes months to pay down. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. By following some simple strategies, you can make sure you satisfy your shopping list without going over your budget.
Make a budget
It seems like it should go without saying, but making a budget is the cornerstone of responsible holiday shopping. Liz Weston of NerdWallet suggests creating a spreadsheet that includes your anticipated income for the holiday months and a list of the people you need to gift-shop for. Subtract your fixed expenses as well as how much you plan to pay for things like decorations, travel, food and drinks for holiday gatherings. This should give you a pretty solid idea of how much money you’ll have to work with for your list and allows you to budget accordingly.
Stick to your budget
However you decided to create a budget, the only way it pays off is if you stick to it. As Reyna Gobel of Investopedia suggests, you may be inclined to try and match the generosity of gift-givers who don’t carry the same level of financial obligation or burden. Rather than attempting to match someone else’s spending, you should shop in accordance to your budget. Those close to you should understand your budgetary needs, so there’s no need to try and impress them with a gift you can’t really afford.
Cut down on costs
If you want to try and shop a bit outside of your means, it should only come at the cost of other less necessary expenses. Gobel suggests that you could cut down on how much you spend on coffee, eating out, entertainment or other inessential purchases and apply that toward your holiday budget. If you feel that the temptation to go outside of your budget and rack up a balance on your credit card may be too great, consider limiting yourself to cash purchases.
The thought really does count
It’s virtually a given that gift-giving in the holiday season means spending big bucks on material goods. If you have a tighter budget but still want to show your friends and family how much you care, Sean Pyles of NerdWallet suggests shying away from that mindset. Instead, be creative and leverage your skills. If you’re renowned for being crafty in the kitchen, hand out certificates good for a fancy meal of the holder’s choice or, as U.S. News & World Report’s Karen Cordaway recommends, bake a smorgasbord of sweets to give out. If you have friends who have a newborn, you can gift them with a day of peace and quiet by creating a voucher for anytime babysitting. Experiences matter, and they’re easier to customize to a particular person’s needs or interests. What’s more, they may not cost you as much in the run up to the holidays.
You may already feel yourself sweating the impending holiday season, but there’s no reason to. Though you may feel pressured to give expensive gifts and go into debt out of generosity, you can spend smart and mitigate any financial damage the season of giving might cause.