Fall has arrived, and the holiday season will be here before you know it. If thoughts of last year’s hectic holidays already have you in a panic, you may want to get an early start planning your holiday budget.
With some early planning, you can stay organized, avoid overspending, and get a chance to actually enjoy the holidays.
Create a gift list. Last-minute shoppers tend to overspend and to buy on impulse, says Darcy Rogers, co-founder of Blue Ella, a boutique agency that provides business solutions for large and small retailers.
Rogers says the key to sticking to a budget is making a list that includes not only the names of those for whom you will buy gifts but also gift ideas and how much you intend to spend on each recipient. Include everyone—family, friends, teachers, doormen, and so on—to stay on budget and avoid last-minute high-priced purchases.
Set a budget and stick with it. Rogers’ favorite no-stress tip is to create a separate holiday account—something she has been doing for years. You might choose to deposit money directly into the account, or you may instead designate a portion of your paycheck to be directly deposited each pay period. Being organized and knowing your limit can make shopping a lot more enjoyable.
Shop now. If you see something on sale, buy it now, says Laurie Floyd, the blogger behind Steals and Deals for Kids. Floyd advises that you pay careful attention to items on your list so you are ready to buy—and then stash the gift away—when a sale hits.
Be loyal. Small, local boutiques rely on loyal customers as word-of-mouth advertisers. Rogers encourages shoppers to pay attention to special holiday promotions small businesses might only offer to their best customers.
In addition, you can stay updated on great deals at your favorite stores—big, small, online, or offline—by following various retailers’ Facebook pages and paying attention to the offers that are posted.
Use technology. Floyd and Rogers both recommend finding the right tech tools to help you spend carefully and within your budget. Following money-saving blogs for some of the hottest gifts will make you a gift-giver extraordinaire, and downloading organizational apps on your smartphone or tablet will help you keep track of your gift list.
You may also want to consider scanning discount online marketplaces for gifts. Some feature programs that offer expedited shipping for a monthly fee so you can save money on sending gifts to out-of-town family and friends.
Elizabeth Abrams is a freelance writer and communications specialist. Throughout her 15 years working in public relations she has secured media placements in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and on CNN, to name a few. In addition to operating her own agency, Elizabeth Abrams Communications LLC, she has contributed to several media outlets including Yahoo! Homes, Chicago Parent Magazine, MOMeo.com and BabbaCo.com. Elizabeth’s writing focuses on information and experiences impacting parents, children and families.