With Halloween now over, you’ll find Thanksgiving and holiday reminders starting to trickle in. Though many of us want to hold onto fall, it’s actually a benefit that we’re already being reminded that holiday shopping is almost here. Now is the time to start saving and planning for the holidays, they’ll be here before we know it.

If you’re currently deployed overseas, it’s very easy to let the holidays sneak up on you. Halloween comes, the leftover candy is gone, and before you know it the mess hall is serving turkey and gravy.

That’s why it’s so important to prepare a plan for holiday expenses, even if you’re only sending a few packages home. Here are some financial techniques to ensure that this year your holiday budget will be nice instead of naughty.

 

Start saving now

Even if you haven’t been that diligent this year, you still have time to prepare. Start putting away money every pay period from now until you celebrate the holidays. There’s nothing jolly about waking up with a New Year’s hangover and getting a shocking credit card bill!

If you normally spend $500 on presents, putting away $125 each pay period from now until the holidays will get you there. Try changing your direct deposit through your HR department so the money goes directly to a different account, so you can earmark that money for holiday-related expenses.

 

Make a budget before the season

The key to not overspending on the holidays is to figure out how much you can afford to part with. Most of us want to be generous this time of year so we don’t try to limit our purchases.

Think about how much money you’ll need to spend on presents, travel and more. Where will that money come from? Can you cut back on anything this month or the next? Or will you have to dip into your savings?

If you have some wiggle room in your budget, and are looking for ways to cut down on expenses so you can save for the holidays, there are tons of ways to beef up your budget.

Consider a little side hustle to fund your shopping and travel. Are there items you can sell before the holidays? Can you work overtime or find a part-time gig for a few weeks?

A simple solution could be talking to your family about limiting how much you spend on presents. That way, no one feels bad when they get a $50 gift after spending $100 on yours.

Credit cards can be a great asset for holiday spenders, but avoid using your card to fund those holiday buys if you can’t pay off the balance in a reasonable amount of time. But, it may be advantageous to use your credit card in order to maximize potential cash back and rewards points.

 

Think Outside the Box

No one wants to be a Scrooge, and it can be hard to imagine a year with less presents or fewer expensive parties. In reality, a little creativity can be worth more than any amount you could spend.
credit card inserted into a christmas present

If you can’t attend a holiday concert, invite your friends to listen to festive music while drinking homemade eggnog. Or invite everyone to a cookie-decorating party. Baking ingredients bought in bulk can be a cheaper alternative to a traditional dinner party.

Have a realistic budget and be aware of your limits. Then, it’s easy to figure out when you should say no to events if your budget doesn’t support you attending them.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to embrace the spirit of the holidays and spend time with the people you care about most, rather than spending a small fortune on presents.