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Posted November 18th, 2016 by in General

9 Tips to Get You (and Your Wallet) Through the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, until January rolls around and many of us are looking at our wallets and credit card statements wondering what happened… Avoid the stress and guilt this year by planning ahead so that you can be fully present during the holidays, soaking up the little moments and enjoying time with family and friends.

Here are some tips to help you get organized and avoid that last-minute rushing around that is stressful on your body and your bank account.

  1. Map it out. Look at your money map (budget) and decide realistically how much you would like to spend and on what. It can be helpful to make a list of all of the people you plan to buy gifts for, all of the decorations you plan to purchase, and any other projected spending this season. This free Holiday Budget Calculator will help you estimate your spending over the next month and a half.
  2. Make a shopping plan. Last minute shopping is a surefire way to spend more than you planned for. Instead, be strategic.
    • Have a concrete list of things you plan to buy before you leave the house.
    • Look for upcoming sales, and use coupons from the newspaper, online, or in-store.
    • Take advantage of free shipping if you order several gifts at once from the same catalog or online.
    • Comparison shop to find the best deals—the earlier you start, the more time you have to be a savvy shopper.
    • Next year, consider buying gifts throughout the year to spread out your spending.
  3. Keep track as you go. Use your money map to track your spending over the course of the holidays. Make adjustments to the rest of your plan if things cost more or less than expected.
  4. Discuss gift-giving with friends and family. They may be just as relieved as you are to put a cap on spending, or to not give gifts at all but instead spend time with one another. In large families or groups of friends, drawing names out of a hat and each giving just one gift can be much more manageable for everyone.
  5. Consider ways to make entertaining budget-friendly. When you host, have a potluck instead of supplying all the food yourself. Instead of baking multiple batches of cookies to deliver to friends, have a cookie-swap party where you only make one batch each and swap recipes. Suggest a rotation among family or friends rather than hosting every year.
  6. Stick to routines to combat stress. Stick to your usual routine as much as possible and plan ahead to avoid rushing around. If you usually go to the gym or go for a walk every day, try to stick to those habits during the holidays. With a plan, you’ll be able to get everything done without last-minute anxiety.
  7. Avoid using your credit card when possible. A good rule of thumb is, don’t use your credit card unless you can pay it off right away. Interest adds up, so if you buy a gift on sale with your credit card but only pay the minimum monthly payments on that card, you may end up spending as much as double the original price in the long run.
  8. Stray from your plan? Don’t panic! That’s why we call it a “Money Map” – not a “Budget”! If you stray a little bit too far in one direction, just alter your plan moving forward to get your earning, spending, and saving back in line with your money values.
  9. Remember what it’s all about. Not only will careful spending this holiday set you off on the right foot next year, it will free you up to enjoy what the holidays are really all about – spending time with loved ones. While extravagant gifts can be exciting in the moment, what lasts is relationships, so invest your time and energy into your friends and family.

Whether you’re mapping out the holidays or mapping out your life, use our online guide Cents and Sensibility to help you learn to manage your money, so your money doesn’t manage you!