If you promise yourself you’re not going to overspend each holiday season, but usually cave and bust your budget anyway, chances are you don’t have a solid plan to stay out of holiday debt. Once the “good sales” start, the credit cards come out. Then, people convince themselves that a holiday loan is a good idea, to cover the decorations, gifts, and big family dinners. Then New Years passes, and people are thousands of dollars in debt with a pounding headache and a resolution to spend less!
Fortunately, Christmas is three months away, so if you devise a plan of action now, you can avoid a frenzied last-minute shopping spree and the resulting financial hangover in January.
Try the following tactics to avoid the holiday debt hangover this season.
1. Devise a budget
The best way to make sure you stay on course is to have a financial road map to follow. As soon as you can, determine how much money you can realistically afford to spend on the holiday season without having to dip into savings or pull out credit cards. Then tack on 10 percent to give yourself a little wiggle room for those unexpected gifts and last minute party invitations.
2. Look out for deals
By planning for the holidays now, you can check regularly for good deals on specific items and come in under budget when the shopping is complete. Make your holiday shopping list with potential gift ideas for each recipient and then start checking to see if those items, or similar buys, go on sale. If you end up finding half of the items on your list at 10 to 40 percent off, you can see how quickly the savings will add up.
3. Try share gifting
If you have individuals on your list who have expensive tastes, team up with friends and family and pool your resources (try Shareagift) to buy expensive items. By chipping in just a little for those pricey gifts, you save a lot of money and make everyone’s holiday happy.
4. Make presents
Have you always wanted to knit a pair of mittens for your nephew or make soap for your mother? Check Pinterest for some DIYs. You still have plenty of time to get the supplies and make your one-of-a-kind creations. Not being under stress while attempting to create a masterpiece also makes the process a lot more fun. And if things don’t work out as planned, you still have time to get alternate presents without standing in long lines and paying outrageous, last-minute prices.
5. Plan to send Ecards
The cost of mailing paper cards, including the cards themselves and postage, can add up quickly. For a minimal yearly subscription or no cost at all, send out Ecards this holiday season and save yourself a bundle—not to mention the time you save not addressing each card and going to the post office. Full of bells and whistles, Ecards are fun for the recipients, and they don’t overflow the trashcan after the holidays are over.
6. Go potluck for family gatherings
Holding a holiday meal at your house and paying for most of the eats is likely to cost hundreds of dollars. Rather than footing the entire bill, spread responsibility for the feast among all attending, which will even out the workload and make the bill equitable.
7. Earn extra cash
If you find that your budget can’t withstand what you desire to spend this coming holiday season, and cost-cutting measures aren’t enough, it’s time to bring in some extra cash to make up the difference. Consider doing online surveys, tutoring struggling students, (who right about now really need some help), or look for work as a dog walker or pet sitter. If you’re super-social, and good at selling, try joining your favorite direct sales company for the season. Also seek seasonal work, such as at a Halloween store or a catering company.
Take advantage of this workable plan of action for not overspending this holiday season, you can look forward to a debt hangover-free and stress-free January.