“I haven’t yet recovered from Halloween expenses” – that is, perhaps, your first thought after reading the title. But to be honest, compared with a winter holiday shopping season, this was just a rehearsal. To benefit the most from Christmas shopping, you have to think of it the sooner the better. You won’t be surprised to learn that retail stores are already packed with holiday stuff trying to attract customers with big sales.
In 2015, an American Research Group found out that the total amount of holiday expenses for an average shopper in the U.S. equaled $882 that year. Count your own spending for the previous year and you’ll most likely be shocked by these numbers. The situation becomes worse if by those expenses you are running into more debts. Now to mention the fact that you can have a mortgage, a student loan, and other debts on your shoulders at the moment.
Enjoying a holiday season is possible if you know how to plan your budget early and in a smart way. So here is what you do:
1. Analyze your shopping list from the last year
It’s better to learn from your own mistakes. Hopefully, you still have that old list somewhere in your planner, on a paper sheet or on your laptop. Make a quick analysis of things you bought last year: what was indeed a necessary purchase and what was not, which things you haven’t utilized at all, where you could have saved more if you bought these things earlier etc.
2. Make a new budget
Editing your list from a previous year by removing things you didn’t need is only the first step towards creating a new budget. After all, your current financial situation can differ from the amount of money you could afford to spend last year. When planning your budget, think of how much funding you are going to expend on gifts, entertaining, decorations and travel. If you are willing to stay frugal this year, first of all, set limits on gifts since they usually make up the bulk of your Christmas holiday expenses.
3. Use electronic budgeting apps
Why not use your smartphone or tablet for such useful things as managing your budget? Especially, when there are many great free Christmas budget apps you may consider more convenient than paper plans.
For IOS users there is a nice app called Santa’s Bag, which helps you plan, edit and control your holiday budget in the easiest way. You just tell the app how much money you have in total for holiday shopping, and then whenever you purchase goods from your list, the app updates the data automatically.
If you are friends with Android, an alternative to this app on Google Play is Christmas Gift List. It tracks your overall budget as well as a budget per person and lets you make updates to your list. Along with it, it has an option of saving your budget lists from previous years so you can always check them on the go.
4. Think of most “complicated” gifts first
Even now, you may already know what your friends or family members want for Christmas as a gift. Some of those gifts can be indeed hard to find or purchase, so it makes sense to get them as early as possible. From one point, it’s worth waiting until the holiday sales, but no one can say for sure whether that exclusive purple silver sweater or a brand new perfume would be sold or not.
5. Make subscriptions to stores and use coupons
Holidays are best for their huge sales and deals. How to know about these latest updates first? Subscribe to online shops or follow the store’s social media accounts. By the way, receiving personal letters to your email is beneficial because oftentimes through emails you can get exclusive coupons with decent discounts. Pay attention to coupons from regular stores that you can find in newspapers, magazines or even print them out from the manufacturers’ websites.
So, being frugal is possible, even in such a stressful for your wallet winter holiday season. Writing a budget plan right now gives you more time to realize where and how you can save on Christmas expenses.