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7 Tips to Keep Holiday Spending in Check

The holiday season shouldn’t be stressful – but the reality is, whether you need to prepare for a visit with the in-laws, host a large family dinner or check a number of items off of a wish list, the time and financial crunches can take their toll.

These tips can help you keep your holiday spending in check – as well as your stress levels.

Make a list and check it twice

Plan a budget ahead of time – and stick to it.

  • There are plenty of online budget calculators to lend you a hand if you aren’t sure where to start.
  • Although it may look good on paper to have a small budget, if your budget is unrealistic you are more likely to go over it.
  • Try to anticipate all the costs, including the little things.

Don’t forget to track your spending and keep it in check with your budget. If you go over in one budget line, try to make up for it by under-spending elsewhere.

Be a savvy shopper

Planning in advance and sticking to a shopping list can make all the difference during the holiday season.

  • Look for sales, use coupons and take advantage of free shipping for online purchases – planning ahead can help you to avoid last-minute purchases that are outside of your budget. You can cut down on express shipping charges if you don’t leave that last-minute online purchase until too late.
  • When watching for sales, be wary of signage that is put out to draw you in – just because it’s marked as a sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal!
  • Plan your shopping trips and avoid the extras. It’s nice to treat yourself once in a while, but if you’re getting coffee or food at the mall each time you go, those costs can add up. Eat before you go out on your shopping excursion and take snacks with you for when you’re feeling a little peckish.

Reconsider your gift giving

Consider changing your gift giving habits – cut back on your list if you can, introduce the idea of a Secret Santa for your family instead of buying gifts for everyone or suggest a group gift to charity.

If you’re sticking to a list, check off everything you buy and then stop shopping. Going off-list can have a significant impact on your budget.

You could also consider homemade versus store-bought gifts. If you’ve got time and creative skills, giving homemade gifts can help to cut down on your budget. Plus, it’s very personal and comes from the heart!

Practice smart party planning

A potluck dinner is a great way to cut down on the stress and costs of hosting a family dinner or party. If you’re hosting, plan to make the main dishes and ask others to contribute sides, salads, desserts, etc.

If you don’t have the option to share the work and the spread out the financial contribution, keep track of all that you spend so that you can budget effectively for your next party.

Remember that decorations may add ambiance, but they are optional. Cutting back on decorations for your holiday party can translate into significant savings.

Travel wisely

Many people go home for the holidays – and travel companies are well aware of that.

  • Plan travel as far in advance as possible or look for seat sales and use discount fare-finding sites.
  • If you’re going by car and not going far, try carpooling.
  • Budget for spending money during the trip as well – buying food and drinks at convenience stores in airports and gas stations on the road can add up quickly, so consider buying less expensive (and healthier) snacks for the journey.
  • Ask if the hotel you’re staying at offers discounts, for example for CAA members. Book in advance or use cost-saving sites to find your accommodations for less. Or stay with family (if you can handle it)!

When possible, purchase a little bit at each paycheque to avoid a large payment all at once. This will also help to prevent the “holiday hangover” of seasonal debt.

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