The holidays are just around the corner and that means the extra expenses that come along with the season’s celebrations will start adding up before you know it. It’s natural to want to treat yourself and your loved ones, but you still need to be financially responsible, so you don’t blow your budget and pay the price for months into the new year.
Remember, keeping the bigger financial picture in mind during the holidays and throughout the year is essential to your financial stability and success. Financial independence and confidence are much more desirable than extravagant holiday spending. So if you want to enjoy the holidays this year and still manage your financial goals for the coming year, you’ll need to create a holiday budget and stick to it.
Here’s how to budget for the holidays and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without breaking the bank.
Make a List and Check it Twice
If you’ve ever experienced a holiday spending hangover in January, you know how easy it can be to overspend. Even if you budgeted for big-ticket items, your credit card bill might reveal that it was the frills that put you over the top. From refreshing your seasonal decor on a whim to picking up “just one more” stocking stuffer with every trip to the store, costs can get out of hand quickly.
Take the time now to make a list of everything you’ll need and want, estimate how much you are willing to spend, and make adjustments to your budget accordingly. Talk it over with your family, look over bills from previous years, and be sure to add plenty of padding for flexibility and unexpected expenses.
Whether you plan a weekend getaway to visit friends, a family gathering road trip, a lavish once-in-a-lifetime jet-setting vacation, or you’re looking to see and do as much as you can around town during your downtime from work, don’t make a move without making a budget.
Take inventory of exactly what it will take to pull off your holiday travel plans without a hitch, and price everything from airline tickets and hotel accommodations to luggage, snow tires, and pet boarding. Set your itinerary, allocate the appropriate funds, and prepare for departure with confidence.
Feasts and Festivities
Are you throwing any holiday parties or hosting dinners? Will you be attending events as a guest? Whether you are entertaining or simply showing up, you’ll want to make room in your budget for expenses related to the social occasions that fill the season with laughter and cheer. If you will be the party-giver, set the tone and corresponding budget now; from elegant dinner parties to the most casual affairs, expenses can grow exorbitant if unchecked.
Make a note of all of the events and possibilities on your calendar and decide what each will conceivably cost you. Don’t forget to include expenses such as your party attire and hostess gifts.
Spread the Joy
One of the best ways to boost your holiday spirits and lift the mood of the people around you is to spread joy by giving gifts. Set aside some room in your budget to buy small, thoughtful gifts for friends, coworkers, neighbors, your barber or hairstylist, the mail carrier, Amazon delivery driver, garbage collector — anyone you’d like to show appreciation.
Make a list of people and brainstorm inexpensive ideas for presents. It could be something as simple as a gift card, candle, book, golf tees, or homemade cookies. It’s the thought that counts!
Thinking of people and picking up items at the last minute—after your budget feels stretched—can cause you to skip this kind of gift-giving and miss out on the gift of giving, so plan ahead and get started now.
Just because you are prudent with your budget doesn’t mean you can’t give generously. The best gifts are the most meaningful. While the kids are making their lists, speak to them about what would make the holidays feel special. That might mean giving up toys and tech gadgets to make room for a weekend ski trip. It could mean exchanging a few items on your own list for the pricey item your sister can’t afford to give your well-deserving nephew this year.
This might be the year you shift your spending from material items to worthwhile experiences. Perhaps you have the means to give a sizable donation to charity. However you decide to give, if you can, do it with intention and careful planning.
Enjoy Your Holidays
Nobody enjoys being a penny-pinching Scrooge. But if you don’t budget appropriately, you can feel the squeeze during the holidays, or worse yet, go into debt and regret it. No matter what traditions you follow, the holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks, and enjoy time with your loved ones.
Go into the season with eyes wide open and make plans according to what you can afford to spend. With careful forethought, even the tightest budget can allow for a jolly good time.
Kevin Stoddard is a LPL Financial Advisor with Stoddard Financial in Medfield, Massachusetts. Stoddard helps clients throughout New England to identify, plan, and execute strategies designed for securing their desired financial future. With their Financial Wellness @ Work program, they engage, educate, and empower employees by helping them to understand and appreciate the value of their benefits package.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.