October ushers in my personal favorite time of year. Sweater weather, the best of college football, apple chai lattes…and holiday shopping? Yes, you read that right.
While I am admittedly anti-holiday gift giving, the hubs and his family love it, so in recent years I’ve come on board. Who am I to buck their family tradition? Although my husband is adamant about giving presents, he is also a chronic non-planner. This usually leads to a very tight budget for him after the holidays, and countless hours spent in stores, last-minute shopping. Between my impatience dealing with crowds, and my refusal to go broke, I’m not about any of that life. In general, I resent that so many people overspend, or go into debt, trying to keep with traditional gift-giving, or failing to plan ahead for other holiday expenses. That said, I offer this simple idea: start now!
Why this works
Cash flow is king! This is true for business and personal finances. Although you will miss out on the holiday sales, spreading holiday spending over several months will ease that wallet tightness that some people feel during the holidays, not to mention the stress of it all. Shopping more strategically will also allow you to purchase more thoughtful gifts (because I guarantee your little cousin doesn’t want another phone charger from Five Below). For those of us for whom the holidays mean traveling, tons of cooking and holiday parties to attend, now is the time to stash away for those large grocery lists and travel expenses. Here are 6 tips that make the process a breeze:
Make your list, check it twice
During our large family gatherings throughout the year, I’m constantly taking note of things people like, need, or mention they’d like to have. I keep a list in Evernote (Evernote is bae!) that I can update on the fly as a thought hits me.
Incorporate your gift buying into your regular shopping trips
During my regular Saturday shopping, I peruse my holiday list, and grab items as I come across them. This way I can check off a couple people at a time and take advantage of special promotions as they arise.
Need I say more?
Shop small and close to home
Several of my friends have small businesses and are always releasing new products. For example, a friend recently released a line of delicious-smelling, all-natural body butters that I know will be perfect for a few folks on my list. Holiday shopping is a great time to support small local businesses in your area.
Build your travel savings
If you know you plan on travelling, not only is this a good time to start comparing prices on travel arrangements, it’s also a good idea to start tucking away small portions of your spending money to ensure you have everything you need. As little as $50 a week can provide ample spending cash for your trip home.
Plan for your holiday parties
If you are hosting this year’s holiday dinner, now is a good time to think about your menu, number of people you plan to host, and what you need to do to your home to prepare. If you’re like me, you have at least 4-5 holiday parties to attend, some of which are black tie. Consider getting ahead of your outfit options now.
As a final note, I encourage you to respect your limits. If I’m experiencing a year where funds are tight, or priorities don’t line up with holiday shopping, I simply bow out. Most folks will understand, and those who don’t will be okay.
What are your favorite tips for avoiding the holiday season wallet crunch? Let’s discuss in the comments section.