‘Tis the season for great food and even better company! As the holiday season comes upon us, there’s certainly a lot to be thankful for: friends, family, football season, the first snowfall, upcoming vacations, you name it.
But have you thought about your wallet? It’s easy to take your wallet, savings and credit cards for granted between now and the new year. After all, you’ve got travel plans, gifts to buy and there’s much fun to be had! Stay one step ahead of the game by taking a little time to thank your wallet now. Your budget and your wallet will thank you once the holidays are over.
Create a Holiday Budget Plan
Take time now to sit down and figure out what you’re holiday expenses are going to look like. Travel plans, food, drink, presents, and the like fall into this category. By making a list of expenses you expect to pop up during the next eight weeks or so, you’ll be better prepared to spend wisely and avoid post-holiday debt hangovers.
Once you’ve figured out what you expect to spend this season, take your current financial temperature. If you’ve got a separate holiday or “fun” savings account for occasions like this that will cover your plans, you’re all set! But, if it looks like you’ll need to tap into your savings or take on some debt to get through the holidays, perhaps you can find some ways to cut down on holiday expenses before they happen. Shopping smart and taking advantage of deals will cut down on the costs of presents.
Stuff Your Savings
Before you stuff your tummy, don’t forget to stuff your savings! Now’s the time to cut down on “invisible expenses” – those easy purchases you don’t think twice about, but eat up a huge chunk of your budget each month. For example, that $4 morning holiday latte that gets you in the spirit. By making a little sacrifice everyday, like bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out, you can add to your savings a little bit each day.
Paying yourself first will ensure holiday spending doesn’t come back to haunt you in the new year. If possible, have a separate holiday savings account to help you keep track of what you have on-hand to spend.
Be Smart About Your Credit Card
With your credit cards tucked away safely in their warm little card slots, it’ll be tempting to make the most of them during the holidays. Hopefully there are no existing balances on your cards, or you’ve been paying off your debt throughout the year. If not, that’s okay – but you’ll want to have a plan to make the most of your plastic.
Check out the interest rate (APR) on your credit cards and the billing cycles. Depending on when you make your holiday purchases on your cards, it may be another month before the bill comes due. This can be great for budgeting if you’re planning on a holiday or year-end bonus to supplement your holiday spending.
Don’t forget about rewards, too! With deals and sales galore, your credit card may help you get the best deal possible during the holidays. Research before you shop to see where your card will get you the best bang for your buck.
Help Your Wallet Look Lean
Now’s the time to make that wallet look lean, because as we all know, the holiday season doesn’t do our waistlines any favors! Clean out old receipts, check your credit card statements and clear out the clutter. A lean and organized wallet will make traveling and shopping a breeze.
While you’re at it, organize your cards. Make sure your most-used credit and debit cards are easily accessible. And, make sure your store loyalty or discount cards are in your wallet too – you don’t want to forget them once you start shopping!
Figure out a strategy that will help you stay organized. Keep receipts clean and readable while you’re shopping. You never know if you’ll need to make a return or get a price match after you make a purchase. Plus, it’ll help you keep an eye on your holiday expenses as you spend, so you can adjust your spending as the season goes on to stay within budget.
Once you’ve done these few things, you’ll be ready to kick-off the season right! A little time and gratitude for your wallet now will pay off in the long run. We promise, it’ll thank you back!