November is the time when many people begin their holiday shopping. As you search for the best gifts for friends and family, it’s easy to end up going over budget and getting tangled up in monetary difficulty without realizing it. This is why it’s important to find ways to stick to sound financial planning amidst a season that shouts “buy!” from all directions. Whether you’re waiting for a Black Friday door-buster sale or plan to get your gift-buying done tomorrow, here are some money-saving tips to help you stay on track this season.
Budget, Budget, Budget
Making a budget is a valuable activity for any type of financial planning. Lay out what your expenses are, how much you think you need to spend, how much you can afford to set aside from each paycheck, and so on. Ideally, the budget should remain your constant frame of reference during your holiday shopping. Draw up a list of who you plan to give gifts to, and assign each person a fixed dollar amount for their present that you will not exceed. Don’t be afraid to take a cue from Santa and check your list twice to find extra opportunities for saving or redistributing funds, but you should also be able to take a step back at the end and finalize your plans.
Set Up an Account
It may be helpful to set up a separate holiday account that you draw on for gift purchases. You can establish pre-set transfers each week so that the account silently fills up with the funds you need. This is sometimes referred to as a “stealth approach” since it doesn’t make the loss from your main funds immediately obvious.
It is easier for people to overspend when using credit or debit cards. If you know you have this habit, take a cash-only approach to your holiday shopping. Once you establish your budget for gifts, withdraw the amount and use it (and only it) for your purchases. When the cash is gone, your holiday shopping ends—no exceptions.
Check for Online Deals
Online shopping can sometimes be more affordable than making purchases in the store itself since online vendors don’t have the same types of infrastructure costs and can pass the savings on to you. When shopping online, pay attention to any delivery fees and conditions in order to make sure you are actually getting a good deal and, perhaps most importantly, that the gift will actually arrive before the big day occurs.
Get Wedding Shopping Out of the Way
This may seem a bit random, but if you have a wedding coming up, then the November-December season is actually a good time to go bridal shopping. Wedding dresses are usually cheaper at this time of year since most people are too occupied with other festivities, and business will be slow. Additionally, holiday bargains can make buying someone a wedding gift easier on the wallet.
Save Your Receipts!
Keep careful track of how much you spend during the holidays. Not only does this help you stay on budget, but you can use the information to guide your financial planning activities for the following year. Make particular note of any areas where you ended up spending more or less than expected so you can factor it in the next time the holidays roll around.
Remember the Reason for the Season
It’s easy to get caught up in searching for the biggest, shiniest gift, but remember that there are plenty of other ways to give people meaningful presents. Homemade gifts, cooking special treats, babysitting so your friends can have a night to themselves, and other presents or gestures can be just as or more meaningful than something bought in the store.
LUSO Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative dedicated to providing members with quality financial services and products. We at LUSO pride ourselves on serving the financial needs of our members and helping them save for the special occasions in life. Our services are available in Ludlow, Springfield, Chicopee, Westfield, and Hampden County, Massachusetts.
Feel free to contact our Ludlow branch toll free at 1-844-LUSO-FCU or our Wilbraham branch at 1-800-808-5876.