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10/27/2019 | Team United
By now, we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing stores with holiday displays in September and October. And while this can feel cringe-worthy, it’s actually a good reminder to start planning your holiday budget in order to avoid the financial sting that can arrive with the New Year.
United Federal Credit Union has some tips for staying within your budget.
Analyze income, expenses and debt to figure out what you can afford to spend for this year’s holiday season--from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. To control impulsive spending, make a list of what you need to buy if you are hosting an event, and who is our your list to receive gifts.
Start your holiday shopping a little early this year. Give yourself a vacation day to shop rather than cramming little trips into your lunch hour. This will allow you to avoid hasty decisions by giving you enough time for comparison shopping.
If you really dread the shopping scene, there is still time to make a gift. For example, frame a special picture, prepare an edible gift, donate to a charity in honor of a friend or family member. You could also give the gift of time. Pay for a loved one to take a class in an area that interests them, and take the class with them! Gifts that require thought rather than a lot of money are more personal and, as a result, often more appreciated.
If your budget requires that you spend less on gifts this year, tell friends ahead of time to avoid awkward situations.
Don’t say, ‘I can’t afford it’, because that can be embarrassing. Instead say, ‘I am on a budget,’ which is universally admired.
Who knows? Talking with friends and family in advance may actually relieve pressure for everyone.
If you have direct deposit, plan to have a small amount automatically deposited each week and watch your holiday savings grow! You can set up a holiday savings account with United online, by visiting a branch, or by contacting our Member Service Center.
Gifts aren’t your only expenses. There are hidden holiday costs to budget for, like decorations, travel, entertaining, mailing and shipping. Those can also break the budget if you’re not careful.
Now is the time to consider what clothing you might need for the holiday. Will you be attending a formal event? Do the kids need dressy clothes for a family party or photograph? Can you borrow items, or alter clothing you already have to save money?
Consider the costs of entertaining and start watching for sales on the food and beverage items you plan to serve. Check the newspaper for coupons and special offers. Many holiday goodies can be frozen until you are ready to use them. Click here for a calculator to help you identify your expenses for entertaining.
Will you be sending gifts to friends or family in other locales? Make a list and determine what you could buy online. It’s not only convenient but you can often take advantage of free shipping to further whittle down expenses.
Are you spending the holidays away from home? Compare prices online before booking airline flights. Non-peak days are usually less expensive. And don’t forget that there is more involved than just the obvious airfare and hotel. Other costs include luggage fees and pet care.
Save money on holiday decorations by setting aside some time to make your own with friends and family. Not only will you be saving money, you’ll also be creating memories. For example, children of any age can help string popcorn to make a garland for the Christmas tree, while some of the more intricate homemade decorations would make nice hostess gifts.
The bottom line is, start now and really think about what you will be spending. Figure out your costs, and decide what is really necessary and then cut back if needed.
Finally, remember there is no better time to start planning for next year’s holiday than immediately after this year’s season ends. Now that you have taken the time to figure out just how much you spend, use it to build those costs into your monthly budget for the coming year. Start a savings plan in January for a stress-free holiday in December!