With the holidays right around the corner, how do you make sure that you keep spending in check and don’t go overboard?
Since this Christmas is more special to me because it’s our first with the new addition to our family, I vowed that I will end this year with a healthier financial mindset—which means no overspending and no new debts during the holidays. I think it’s one of the best gifts I can give to myself and family this season.
If you are anything like me who also want to keep your spending in check during the holidays, below are helpful tips I’ve put together so you can have a meaningful Christmas without breaking the bank.
1. Create a budget or spending limit.
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This seems like the universal advice for almost all financial dilemmas. People who spend indiscriminately are likely the people who spend without a budget. To avoid going over what you can afford, then create a budget/ spending limit.
Set a price that you can afford for food, decorations, gifts, parties and other expenditures and stick to it. With a budget, you know exactly how much you can spend without damaging your finances.
You don’t know where to start? I usually make mine using Excel but you can also do it the old-fashioned way on a piece of paper. Here are things you should not forget to account for in your budget…because you certainly don’t want to start the next year without light or get thrown out of your apartment for not paying your bills, right?
• Bills (mortgage, rent, utility and credit)
• List of variable spending (gas, entertainment, clothing)
2. Use cash.
If you are setting out for gift shopping, withdraw the amount you set for it and leave your cards behind. This way, you’ll become more thoughtful of your would-be purchases. Using cash hurts more because you see it go from your hand to the cashier. So, if you want to avoid making extra purchases, use cash and when you run out of cash, then you know that it’s time to stop.
3. Be Aware of Retail Tricks
‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be jolly but ‘tis also the season for retail stores to “trick” you into spending unnecessarily.
If you’re not careful, you may fall for those irresistible, jingly ads tempting you to spend more and make hefty charges to your credit card. Retail stores are shockingly good at this so before you make a purchase, make sure that the items you put into your cart are on your list and the prices are within your budget. With all those signs screaming SALE, 50% OFF, Buy 1 Take 1, it’s easy to make impulsive purchases.
4. Use Cashback Sites
I’ve had so much fun using cashback sites which, as the name suggests, allows you to earn cashback from your purchases. Using these websites (they have apps you can download on your phone, too!), you no longer have to pay the full price when shopping!
For groceries, I use Ibotta, a cashback site/app affiliated with the stores I go to (Walmart, Kmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, and Walgreens.) You can sign up using this link and receive a $10 welcome bonus after you make a purchase. Even if you purchase a $1 item, you’ll still receive that welcome bonus!
If you like shopping online, I highly recommend using Ebates. Like Ibotta, Ebates give you cashback on your online and even in-store purchases. It’s affiliated with thousands of stores including Amazon, Macy’s, Sears, JcPenny, etc.
I recently also received a welcome bonus of $10 from Ebates. Sign up through this link to receive yours. As a member, you can also earn some cash for inviting friends to use the site.
Swagbucks is a cashback site and also a search engine that pays you when you use it. If you have extra time to answer surveys or watch videos, Swagbucks is a great site to use to earn some extra bucks. Sign up through this link to get $5 Welcome Bonus.
5. Cut down on convenience costs.
“Convenience” costs, such as ordering fast food or buying expensive drinks when holiday shopping, can throw your budget off track. These expenses may appear small but they add up quickly. To cut down on convenience costs, do your holiday shopping and other activities wisely.
6. Gift Your Time and Experience
I am not saying there’s inherently wrong about gift-giving during this time but for many people, gift shopping becomes the focal point of the season. We tend to lose focus on the season’s true meaning, we splurge unnecessarily to express our gratitude for “the gift of life” by giving stuff in wrapped boxes.
But, really, is that the best thing you can give this season? Because if I could only receive one Christmas gift, I would ask for presence or time. The time or presence of my loved ones is something that can’t be replaced by any material gift.
How about gift your time or gift an experience? Gifting an experience doesn’t have to be expensive. A simple trip to a museum, watching sunset or fishing is a cheap or free experience you can give or share with your loved ones but will surely be more memorable than a material gift.
Avoiding overspending during the holiday season may be quite a challenge but trust me, come January, you will thank yourself for it!
May you’ll have a merry and meaningful Christmas!