The holiday shopping season is upon us, and it’s the time of year when your budget (and your pantry) is most strained. But you can limit the damage by building a Black Friday/holiday shopping budget plan.
You’ll need to keep your gift list tight and decide in advance how much you’ll spend on each person. But to really build a budget that works, you’ll need to include the extras, including hosting relatives and throwing holiday get-togethers. If you want to start the new year on the right financial foot, creating a solid Black Friday/holiday shopping budget plan this week is absolutely essential.
Here are four steps you can take right now to plan for your Black Friday and holiday shopping season, and ensure you don’t torpedo your budget in the process.
1: Create a plan for how much you’ll spend, then stick to it
The shopping deals this holiday season – especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – are designed to make you think one more purchase won’t hurt. Trust me – it will. Don’t succumb to the temptations (not to mention exhaustion) that abound in a 4:00a.m. Thanksgiving Day Black Friday rush through the stores. According to a study from Deloitte, only 46 percent of people actually have a budget in mind for their holiday shopping, putting them at risk of spending more than they should. The easiest way to combat damage to your budget is to create a plan: how much you can afford to spend, how you’ll spend this amount (and no more) and what you can do to fill in any gaps in your gift list. Before you enter a store this holiday season, fill out this list and stick to it. If it helps, look for special deals ahead of time (most Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales flyers are already available online) so you’re not tempted to splurge.
2: Take advantage of free shipping
More and more stores – like Best Buy and Target – are offering this perk to compete with the free, fast shipping options at online stores like Amazon. If you tend to shop at the last minute or just want to avoid the hectic scenes in stores this season, taking advantage of free shipping is a great way to stick to your list without paying more for your items. You might even consider shopping online-only. Not only could you get the same deals as you would in stores, you’ll spend less on travel and meals out, all without leaving the comfort of your home.
3: Don’t forget about non-gift spending this holiday season
During the holiday shopping season, the big focus is on the cost of gift-giving (an expected $935 per person, according to the National Retail Federation), but you also need to factor travel and hosting expenses into your budget. Flying across the country can include not only plane tickets, but rental car and hotel costs. And hosting comes with its own expenses, including extra groceries, toiletries and supplies for your guests. These costs can be limited to a certain degree – you could ask each guest to bring a dish to share, for example – but not unless you plan for them now.
4: Avoid budget mistakes you know you’ll regret
Most of us have endured enough holiday shopping seasons to recognize when we’re going overboard. If it took your budget months to recover after the holidays last year, then saving and trimming your gift list should be a priority this season. Or, if you tend to put everything on a credit card or use emergency or retirement funds to get through the season, it’s time to step back and find a different solution. No amount of gifts is worth risking your financial future.
Here’s something new to try: If you haven’t yet, find an amount of money you can comfortably afford to spend this year and take it out in cash. Parcel it out according to the list of gifts you need to buy. Then realize: This is all you can spend on gifts and other holiday expenses, so build your list from here. If your list feels meager (or empty), consider handmade gifts (which are often more thoughtful) to fill the gaps and don’t allow yourself to use credit cards or other funds – only the cash you’ve set aside. If you’re traveling, look at every option and save where you can, like not paying for extra bags on a plane. It’s difficult to stick to a plan this time of year, especially when everyone around you is spending, but making it to the new year without financial stress and an avalanche of bills is worth it.