Staying in budget during the holidays

Terry Rogers Business, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

These tips can help you stay on budget this holiday season (Photo courtesy of Freestock from Unsplash)

With many households concerned about the economy, the holiday gift giving season has added stress to an already strained budget. Despite economic worries, a Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey, which polled over 4,000 people found that shoppers are looking forward to shopping this holiday season. The survey found that the average family will spend $1,652 on holiday items, including gifts, decorations and food. This is up from 2022 by about 14 percent when consumers spent an average of $1,496.

“As many as 82 percent of shoppers said they plan to spend on non-gift purchases such as decorations,” Lupine Skelly, Deloitte’s head of retail research said. “That’s up form 77 percent last year. It’s. not quite back to the 2019 levels where it was 88 percent, but it is inching up this year.”

There are ways to help keep yourself on budget during the holiday season, according to Dover Federal Credit Union.

“We all love the festivities of the holiday season, until the January bills arrive to ruin the fun,” a recent blog on the DFCU website stated. “If you are worried you can’t get through this holiday season without spending a fortune, think again!”

The first thing to do is sit down and make a list of all your holiday expenses. Include every expense that is not included in your regular budget, such as wrapping paper, cards, postage, travel, charitable donations, decorations and food, not just gifts. Estimate what you want to spend on each and see where you may be able to cut back. While you are shopping, track what you are spending. Carry a small notepad with you or use one of the many free apps that helps you track your spending.

“After you have created your budget, divide it into tiers,” the blog continued. “The first for family with the highest price limit, the second for close friends which are usually smaller-ticket items like gift cards or food, and the third for neighbors and co-workers, which may be cards, food or homemade gifts.”

Whenever possible avoid using a credit card unless you are sure you can pay the full balance the next month. If you do use credit cards, use one with a low APR or one that gives you points towards other purchases, such as travel or merchandise.

If you are artistic or crafty, get your children involved and make handmade gifts. They can help bake cookies, make fudge or create other easy craft-type gifts that people enjoy. You can find many ideas for homemade gifts on websites like Pinterest.

Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday gets significant hype leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, beware that some deals are actually more hype than savings. Search online to get ideas for what things cost when they are not on sale and then check the Black Friday or Cyber Monday offers to see if they are worth waiting for. Remember that Small Business Saturday, traditionally held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is a great time to get good deals at local stores and boutiques with many offering giveaways and discounts all day.

“Create your own cards rather than spending $30 on a photo with Santa or boxes of expensive cards,” was another suggestion offered by DFCU. “Go with a favorite photo you snapped earlier this year and use an online service to design and print beautiful but low-cost DIY cards.”

For those with large families, one tip offered by DFCU is to draw names, do a Secret Santa or round-robin Christmas exchange to reduce the number of gifts each family member needs to purchase. You can also use the “Four Gift Philosophy.”

“This philosophy has families setting a limit of four gifts per person, one in each gift category,” DFCU recommends. “Something they want, like an item from a wish list; something they need, such as sports equipment or household items; something to wear, such as socks, a coat or jewelry; and something to read, including a new book, a magazine subscription or e-Book gift card.”

One of the best ways to be prepared for the holidays is to get a head start on next year as soon as the holidays are over. Look for reduced cost decorations, cards and wrapping paper after the holidays are over. Throughout the year, look for gift items you can purchase and set aside for the holidays. Consider opening a Christmas club account, putting small amounts of money in it over the year so you have additional savings available when the holidays arrive again.

These simple tips can help you avoid debt at the holidays and take some of the financial burden away so you can enjoy the holiday season with friends and family without worrying about those bills that could arrive in January.

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