It can be hard to keep your spending in line while you are shopping for the holidays, but it can be even worse looking at your credit card bill after the first of the year. When you are shopping for gifts during the holiday, set up a few ground rules for yourself to help you keep on budget to avoid overspending. Here are a few tips from us on how to keep your spending in check:
1. Stay organized: Making a list of gifts is not enough. Make sure you do your research. Find the stores that have your gifts at the best price. Set an overall budget and stick to it. There are a ton of financial services that will track your spending for you for free (Mint.com, LearnVest, etc.), so you will always know exactly how much you are spending on gifts. Having a plan of attack and sticking to it is the best way to avoid overspending during the holidays.
2. Say no to impulse buys: Even if it is a gift you think someone will love, don’t buy it on the spot. Go home, do some comparison shopping, and make sure you are getting the best price for it. Giving yourself that time not only will land you a better price but will also give you time to think through the purchase and make sure it is the right gift.
3. Avoid big “deals”: Say you were going to buy your husband an iPad for $500. Then you see a deal on a 3D TV that is normally $2,000 but is on sale for $1,000. Yes, you are technically “saving” $1,000 on the purchase, but you are still overspending your budget for you husband by $500. While holiday deals can be very tempting, you need to keep the budget in mind otherwise you are going to overspend.
4. Have a reminder handy: In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to avoid overspending. It may sound corny, but having personal mantra that you can repeat to yourself when you are about to overspend on gifts can really help pull yourself out of the situation. Say to yourself something like “Money can’t buy happiness” or “I can’t afford this” or “My planned gift list is enough” can reset your thinking and help you avoid overspending.
5. Look for ways to offset your spending: If you really want to go all out but are afraid of the consequences, you might want to look into off-setting your big spending plans. For instance, use a credit card that gives you the most cash back for your purchases. Many credit cards give up to 5% cash back around the holidays for online spending or shopping at big box stores, so take advantage of those perks. You can also look into supplementing your income with little side jobs, like baking cookies for your friend’s office party or picking up a mall job just for the season. You can also look at some of your old Christmas presents to see if there is anything you can sell, like old electronics that you don’t use anymore. (You can sell them easily here.)