I’ve never LOVED shopping – long lines, throngs of people, endless browsing of the same aisles for that one random thing on my list. But shopping during the holiday season is different; there’s something about the decorations, music and feel of the holidays that makes shopping more enjoyable, especially when you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift or ingredients for your third annual cookie competition.
So what does this feel-good experience do to our budget and credit-card balances? Many of us can relate to that feeling that overwhelms us in the moment – despite a sky-high price tag, we genuinely enjoy the feeling of giving a gift or the anticipation of the perfect recipe. While we don’t think we’ll spend much, we often end up going overboard.
Below are a few tips to help you spend smarter this holiday season, while still reveling in the energy the holidays can bring.
• Take a look at your calendar. See what’s ahead and prioritize where you want your spending to be – gift-giving, holiday parties, travel, preparing and cooking meals, donations?
• Identify who you really want and need to give gifts to. Write those names down. When you’re out and about shopping, it’s easy to get distracted by displays and grab something you think a neighbor would love, even if you had no intention of buying your neighbor a gift.
• Make a shopping list. Whether for food, gifts, or just holiday errands, it helps. I did this last year with my family’s gifts; it made shopping easier, I stayed on track with my spending and my family loved what they received.
• Set spending limits with friends, coworkers and other social groups if you choose to give gifts. If it doesn’t work with your budget, it’s okay to speak up and say so. Others may feel the same!
• Avoid using high-interest credit cards. Leave them at home. While it’s a quick fix for unexpected expenses, you’ll likely end up paying way more that you planned with the interest that gets tacked on if you don’t pay the balance in full. Check out a smarter credit card option here, or a more affordable solution here.
• Be smart with coupons and offers. Take advantage of coupons and offers when you can, but avoid sales tactics like “10 for $10” or “Buy two, get one half off.” If you only need one or two of an item, you’re going to spend more with those “deals.”
• Consider delivery and shipping fees. If you prefer to shop online, make sure you budget for the cost of shipping. If you spend $15 (or more!) on shipping, the convenience of buying online might not be worth it.
• Start saving for 2017. The holiday season happens every year, so start planning now. Open a separate holiday savings account and contribute a little bit each week or paycheck, or plan to purchase one or two gifts each month, instead of waiting to buy them all at the same time.
As always, Affinity Plus member advisors are here to help if you need to figure out a budgeting or savings plan. Because, really, our focus during this time of year should be on the experiences we create with the people we love, not the debt we take on because of the gifts we gave.