#financefriday: How Not to Break the (Piggy) Bank with Holiday Spending

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The #financefriday golden pig

It’s #financefriday again, and today we’re talking about how not to break our precious golden piggy over the holiday season. Today the golden piggy breaks out the holiday body armor to make sure his holiday pennies don’t spill. Read on for tips on how to protect your wallet during the spending season.

According to Investopedia, the average cost of holiday gifts in 2017 was $935.58. A staggering amount of money for the American family in respect to cost of living and other daily expenses. In our household, this is almost akin to a monthly mortgage payment, a necessary expense. Yes, the holiday season is upon us but there are a few simple steps you can take now to keep your holiday spending in check.  

Set a budget and stick to it.

I think I use this header in every #financefriday post, but it really is the key to not overspending. Set a budget and refuse to budge. No holiday is worth excessive debt. Your kids will not remember they didn’t get that $90 LEGO set twenty years from now, so stop obsessing over keeping up with the Jones (and your kid’s wish list). I promise the holidays will be happy and fulfilling whether you spend $5 or $500. It’s not about the gifts.
 
A huge part of this in our household is setting realistic expectations for our children. With baby three on the way, and due Christmas Eve, our toddler and preschooler don’t expect a living room full of gifts, because it’s not something we’ve taught them to expect. We typically limit gifting to three(ish) gifts per child, including one larger, special gift that they typically request from Santa. Because my children are still young, I think it’s important to set the standard that gifts (either in excess expense or amount) aren’t the only part of Christmas, to prevent the expectation that I will buy a $900 iPhone when my children reach that life stage (parents of teenagers – I don’t know how you do it – I’m already biting my nails at the thought). Repeat after me,
Christmas isn’t about presents. 

Put away the credit card.

I know, you’re shaking your head, but if you can’t control your spending and you always break the budget – put away the credit card, now. If your credit card spending surpassing your ability to pay, your holiday budget can easily balloon by hundreds of dollars in interest charges in January when the bill arrives, and you can’t pay in full. If you are a disciplined budgeter, by all means, break out the credit card and earn those points, but keep track of your spending and match it to the cash you have available for holiday expenses. The credit card companies love the holidays, because with the general increase in spending, most folks lose track of their total and go overboard. Be vigilant and watch your current balance by logging in to your account daily, in order to stay on top of your spending.   

Plan all of your shopping, including additional groceries and decorations.

First make a list of all of your holiday gifting, baking, and decorating intentions.
  • Who will you give gifts to?
  • Do you bake cookies? Will you need special trays or containers to gift these in as part of your gift list?
  • Do you host holiday events or parties that require additional food expenses for larger groups of friends or family?
  • Do you love to decorate and spend additional money on new decorations every year?

Christmas expenses come in many forms. Spend just 15 minutes thinking about your typical holiday season and the expenses you usually  incur. This one little step will help prepare your wallet for the month ahead.

And don’t forget about extra spending we missed in the last section.

We talked earlier about grocery and decoration expenses, but left out some other sneaky holiday expenses like special family outings and events, or gas and lodging for travel. Do you love to shop and make a day of it? Don’t forget travel and meals for your shopping day. These small expenses add up quickly.  
 

Plan ahead for next year.

Are you feeling the financial crunch of the 2018 holiday season? Start thinking about 2019 as this season draws to a close. Buy clearance decorations and storable items this year, and pack them away for next season when you take down the tree. I scored our 14′ pre-lit Christmas tree on clearance after Christmas several years ago for under $100.

Really want to buckle down on the budget? Consider opening a “Christmas Club” account at your local bank and depositing a small sum each paycheck or week. $10 a week for the first 11 months of the year can garner you around $480 toward your Christmas fund with limited effort.

Start your shopping sooner. Spread your spending out over the course of several months by purchasing one or two gifts every paycheck beginning in October. This will also alleviate some of the stress of dreaded last minute shopping.

 

Remember, the holidays aren’t about presents. If your holiday season has become steeped in shopping rituals, take a step back and reconsider what the holidays represent for you and your family. It doesn’t matter if you spend $5 or $5000, the holidays will still be special. 

 

 

 

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Teresa G is a work at home mom of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 2 months. She has been happily married to her husband Gus for 7 years. She and her family currently reside in the Slippery Rock area, where she has been a longtime resident. Teresa has bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Professional writing from Slippery Rock University. She has worked in many different fields over the years - dance teacher, aerobics instructor, swim teacher, and most recently, documentation specialist and content manager for a local software company. Currently, she works for The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy, and as a freelance writing professional and content manager for a variety of clients in several different industries. Teresa and her family spend much of their time outdoors, being active, and you can often find them in their “Little Boat” on Lake Arthur, or in the “Big Bass Boat” at Lake Erie. In her spare time, Teresa loves to practice yoga, run, and read anything she can get her hands on.