The holidays can be such a magical season! Time with family and friends. Celebrating old traditions and making new memories. Taste testing each and every one of the options at your friend’s cookie exchange (ok, maybe that’s just us!).
But if you’re not keeping track of your budget, it can be easy for the magic of the season to disappear in a stack of bills. Want to keep those cozy, warm holiday feelings going once the decorations are packed and you’re back to the reality of January? Try these four tips.
Tip #1: Get a handle on your holiday commitments.
It’s easy to forget all the ways you’re likely to spend money in the coming weeks. Take a look at your calendar. Then use our budget worksheet to capture everything in one place. Here are some common expenses to keep in mind:
- Gifts for your nearest and dearest: Write down everyone you’re planning to shop for.
- Tips for service providers: Don’t forget your mail carrier, newspaper delivery person, hair stylist, childcare provider dog groomers, personal care providers and similar.
- Teacher gifts: Want to get a little something for your children’s teachers? We highly recommend gift cards — most teachers dip into their own pockets for classroom spending and they can only handle so many cookies and “World’s Best Teacher” mugs!
- Gifts for co-workers or clients: Even if your presents tends to be baked goods or a Secret Santa gift, add them to the list. It’s an expense!
- Get-togethers: Most of us are more likely to host or go out to celebrate with friends and family over the holidays. Plan ahead.
- Holiday cards, wrapping and decorations: The ka-ching factor of a live Christmas tree, poinsettias, cards/postage and decorations can add up fast.
- Transportation costs: Heading out of town? That could mean anything from extra gas money to a plane ticket.
- Holiday outfits. If you’ve got to dress to impress at your office holiday party or the kids have outgrown all their finery, add this to the list (which isn’t to say you have to spend here — but budget for it if you do).
- Donations. Tend to do your charitable giving in December? Add it to your list.
Tip #2: Set a budget.
Now take each of those items and assign a realistic dollar amount on your worksheet. Build in a little extra for the things you’ll inevitably forget. Sharpen your pencil if necessary. You’re trying to avoid stress and a budget you can truly afford is a good place to start.
Tip #3: Use Summit Money Minder to set goals and stay on top of your spending.
Now that you’ve got a dollar amount in mind, go out to Summit Money Minder. Set spending goals and categories. You’ll be able to see exactly how and where you’re spending. And you can even set up alerts to avoid fees and overspending.
Tip #4: Keep saving
Tempted to skip saving in December and already have a ready list of reasons why that will be ok (the holidays only come once a year, I’ll pay extra next month, the kids really, really need that expensive do-dad in their stocking). Let’s be honest: More spending doesn’t equal more fun, it will be hard to save more next month and your kids will live without this year’s hot toy or electronic (really!). You’ll feel much better if you stay on track with your regular saving. Do it and check in with yourself in January (we’re pretty confident you’ll agree!).
Budget now and enjoy a stress-free (ish!) holiday! You can do it and Summit’s here to help.
Smart money tips brought to you by Red SHOES, Summit’s exclusive financial wellness program.