It’s that wonderful, expensive, miraculous, stressful time of year again. The countdown to the winter holidays has begun.
Remember the promise you made to banish stress from the holidays? We’re here to help you keep it.
Time is your ally — if you start to plan, save and shop sales in the weeks to come. Do a little now and spread out your preparations, and you will avoid a last-minute jam.
Here are eight steps to getting there:
1. Make a simple holiday budget
A rudimentary budget is the foundation of a sane holiday. Create a holiday budget and stick to it by tracking your spending.
Decide early on how much you will spend. Divide this money among all your expenses, including gifts, food, decorations and travel. Watching money fly out of your wallet without knowing if you can afford to spend it is a recipe for stress.
2. Shop for travel deals immediately
As we get closer to the holidays, fares on flights are likely to increase. If you haven’t booked, do so soon.
Set up email or text alerts for the route you want to travel. And be ready to pounce as soon as you see a good deal.
3. Don’t wait until Black Friday to look for sales
Plan your shopping like a general plans a battle. Here’s a secret: Despite the Black Friday hype, the best deals are often earlier in November. So, look for holiday sales right now instead of waiting until the day after Thanksgiving.
4. Do a savings sprint
Dedicate an envelope or a savings account to holiday shopping and see how much you can stuff in there over the coming weeks Start with the change in your pockets or purse.
5. Snag every discount available
Use cash-back sites, buy discounted gift cards — do whatever it takes to cut your costs lower. For more tips on making these techniques work for you, check out:
- “How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year“
- “10 Stores That Give Discounts to Shoppers Age 50 or Older“
6. Plan to tip affordably
Tipping is a way to express gratitude to people who’ve made our lives easier and more pleasant all year long. Money is a great way to do that — if you have it. If you don’t, you can find another way — a thoughtful note of thanks, homemade cookies or another simple handmade present.
For more suggestions, check out “9 Rules for Holiday Tipping the Right Way.”
7. Rein in out-of-control gifting
If your gift list has gotten out of control, here are ideas for reining it in:
- Prune it. Sit down with your list, a pencil and a cup of coffee for 30 minutes next Saturday morning and prune it.
- Eliminate it. Maybe it’s time to stop exchanging expensive gifts.
- Try judicious regifting. You have to be careful with regifting, but it can be done beautifully in some circumstances.
8. Avoid holiday debt
If you don’t routinely run up credit card debt from holiday shopping, give yourself a pat on the back and keep it up.
Otherwise, if you make just one change this year, make it this: Take on no new debt over the holidays. This one change is the best possible gift to give yourself.
What’s your approach to the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.