Holiday Financial Planning: As Easy As 1, 2, 3…4

The season will undoubtedly look a little bit different this year, but ready or not, the holidays are approaching. Are your budget and bank account ready for the expenses associated with spreading cheer?

The best thing you can do to get ready for the holidays – particularly from a financial perspective – is to sit down and create a plan.  Here are four easy ways to help ensure a happy, financially-healthy holiday season:

1. Examine your monthly budget to see how much you can set aside for holiday shopping.

It can be tempting to shower loved ones with gifts or indulge in extra merrymaking, but it’s important to figure out how much you can comfortably afford. Tallying up expectations for gifts, celebrations, and other expenses is an essential part of holiday planning. Don’t forget to budget for hidden costs like travel, host gifts, higher utility and grocery bills, and even things like gift wrap, boxes, and shipping. Some of these considerations might be less of a factor this year, but they’re definitely something to keep in mind. When possible, start early and save throughout the year so the holiday season puts less of a pinch on your pocketbook.

2. Set aside allotted cash and stick to your budget.

Our society is built to be consumeristic, so it’s easy to fall prey to shiny objects and exciting sales. But you’ll do best to only buy what you can afford. Be sure your purchases fit into the budget you set in advance. 

3. Start shopping early to take advantage of holiday deals.

The season seems to start earlier every year. Retailers are already beginning to roll out holiday sales, so if there are bigger-ticket items on your list, keep your eye out for deals that could save you money. Also, consider shopping at small or local businesses, as many are trying their best to keep up with the sales offered by their big-box competitors. Get creative with gift giving, too, with handmade items or gifts from the heart, which can make an impact without adding to the expense column.

4. Make sure you’re shopping securely.

During this pandemic, a lot of us are shopping online, and it’s essential to be sure you’re using reliable websites. Be aware of common seasonal scams, protect your passwords, and check your credit card and bank statements regularly for inaccuracies.

A little legwork goes a long way! Take a few minutes to work out your holiday plans. That way, you’ll achieve your festive expectations while ensuring you’re not left with more than the usual post-holiday ho-hum when the calendar changes to 2021.

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