Holiday Spending Tips

Now that Halloween is over, most of us are surprised to look up and realize that we’re nearing the end of the year. Whether you’re excited or dreading the hustle and bustle of the upcoming season, here are some tips when it comes to planning your spending for the remainder of the year.

Planning for Travel
When traveling during the holidays there are various expenses to consider. Air fare, gasoline, food and drink, dog or house sitters, and lodging. What. A. List. A few weeks before the holidays, consider sitting down and sketching out your plan for the year. Are you traveling by plane? By car? Staying at home? Will you need a dog sitter? Can you stay with family to reduce costs?  Do you need to look into Airbnb or hotel rooms? Once you know what your plan is, keep in mind expenses that can stem from each event. Unexpected taxes for hotel rooms or cleaning fees for Airbnb or VRBO may throw off your budget if not considered. If you decide to travel by car, try packing snacks and water bottles to reduce what you’d pay at a convenience store. If you’re traveling with kids, look into what restaurants along your route offer a “Kids Eat Free” deal.

Planning your Spending for Gifts
If you don’t travel much during the holiday season, likely your largest expense is gifts. To make sure this expense stays in check, you’ll need to make a plan! The first step is to write down a list of everyone you plan to buy a gift for, whether it’s parents, siblings, children, coworkers, or family friends. Next, decide on an amount that you can spend on each person. This may sound ungenerous, but it not only ensures that you know what your budget is, but that your spending is fair. Without a plan, you may end up buying little Timmy a $75 toy, but by the time you figure out what to get for little Sarah, you’ve only got $25 left. Ouch. That could end in disaster.

If you come from a large family like me, we’ve already figured out that buying everyone a gift can be confusing, stressful and outrageously expensive! Because of this, our tradition is to draw names. Just like Secret Santa, minus the secret! Everyone’s name is written down and goes into a bucket, and each individual draws a name. In the end, you buy a gift for one person, and receive a gift from a different person. In addition, we put a limit on how expensive the gifts can be. Normally, we cap things off at $25 per person. This is a great idea for large families, office environments or friend groups.

Every year, there’s always someone whom you didn’t plan to exchange gifts with, but they definitely planned on exchanging with you! Never fear, there’s a way to plan for this too! Set aside a certain amount in your budget for last minute gifts. For those of us who love to be pampered, this could be as simple as a few assorted beauty and skin care items. Two bars of luxury soap, some soothing body lotion, and a bar of fancy chocolate. Alternately, a heat-sensitive coffee mug or a great coffee table book is going to be relatively inexpensive but will be fun to gift and doesn’t have to be especially personal.

Planning your spending for events/parties
Work parties can be great around the holidays but there are sometimes forgotten expenses associated with these. The work party may not provide child care, or be kid-friendly. If this affects you, you’ll need to think about babysitting expenses. If you have a coworker who needs a babysitter as well, you may be able to split the cost by sharing a sitter. Another aspect to consider is transportation. Depending on where the office party is held, you may end up having to pay for parking. And if you decide to fully enjoy the open bar, you will need to consider paying for a taxi or a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft.

As the holiday season begins to warm up, write down what expenses you plan to expect from any gatherings you may attend. If you’re hosting an event, consider making a budget for it. As you can see, the key to holiday spending is to plan. Not only will you feel more prepared by planning your holiday season, but you’ll likely also feel less stressed. Planning for the win!

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