The countdown to the holiday season is on. Buying gifts for your loved ones or planning a family holiday can definitely take a toll on your wallet, but fortunately, working out a budget can help you to avoid a financial hangover once the festivities have ended.
The first step is to use an online budget planner or another budgeting tool to rethink your current spending. Once you’ve identified your current income and expenses, you can determine how you can save more money and where to cut down.
Now that you have a better idea of how much money you can spare for the festive season, you can set your maximum spend. You’ll need to work out all the different costs that will be involved, including ones that are easily forgotten such as wrapping paper for gifts or travel insurance for a family holiday. Ideally, the expected costs will be within the range of what you can afford.
You may also want to split your maximum spend into different categories depending on your plans for the holiday season. For instance, you might have a budget for a family holiday, Christmas gifts and another for a big extended family dinner party. Remember, all these dollar amounts should be realistic and should leave some wriggle room to allow for contingencies.
Making a budget is the easy part. The hard part is actually sticking to it. So how can you save yourself from falling into debt both during and after the festive season?
1. Check your calendar.
Look at upcoming events that might take a toll on your spending over the holiday season. These could be birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings or concerts. It’s important to make the most of these events but also to avoid pulling money from your dedicated holiday budget. Knowing what events you have on each month will mean that you can plan ahead. For instance, if you know your partner’s birthday is coming up, you may need to cut back on expenditure in the previous month to free up some cash.
2. Make separate accounts.
Continuing on from the last tip, it may help to have separate bank accounts for different purposes. For instance, you could create several high-interest savings accounts labelled ‘family holiday’, ‘renovation project’ and ‘gift buying’. This will mean you can only spend what’s allocated for that particular purpose, whether it is holiday-related or not.
3. Beware of hidden costs.
Often, we’ll calculate our budgets without realising that there are additional costs involved. For example, you might buy a $20 gift online, but it might cost an extra $10 for shipping. In this instance, you can avoid this extra fee by shopping in-store or by buying multiple presents from the same website to take advantage of free shipping. With extra planning, you can avoid these little additional costs that can add up and blow out the gift budget.
4. Wait before you buy.
Avoiding impulse purchases will definitely help you stay on track with your holiday budget. Something that you think is the perfect gift might not actually be once you’ve considered it for a few days. Hesitating before you purchase could save you from having to buy another gift and it might allow you to find a better gift elsewhere for less.
5. Don’t set and forget.
You have to stay on top of your budget during the festive season. Keep track of what you’ve already spent and what you have left to spend. Taking just a few minutes per day to assess where you’re at will help you stay on track. Plus, there are plenty of budgeting and money management apps like Pocketbook or Splitwise that can do all the hard work for you.
6. Have an accountability partner.
We can’t always do things on our own. Having someone to hold you accountable for your spending can help big time. This could be your partner or a friend who might even be working on their own holiday budget. If all else fails, a calendar reminder on your phone could work just as well to hold yourself accountable.
Ultimately, the holiday season is a time to celebrate with your loved ones. Even though budgeting may seem like a drag, it can keep the holidays stress-free and help you avoid a financial hangover once all the festivities are done and dusted.
Bessie Hassan is the Money Expert at finder.com.au, the site that compares virtually everything. She regularly appears on national radio, TV, and throughout online publications sharing her best money-saving tips and property advice. She's passionate about helping Australians make more informed decisions so they can improve their quality of life.
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