I know, I know….it seems early to be talking about holiday shopping. However, retailers are chomping at the bit to get the season started. We need to start thinking about how to spend wisely. If you need proof of that people were ordering Iced Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 80 degree weather last month. Whether you are dying to throw on your tall boots or wishing for one more beach weekend it is time to start planning before this holiday season arrives.
1. Holiday are not “emergency fund” expenses
Everyone should have an emergency savings account that is there for them when they really need it. That money should be saved for unplanned expenses that could really mess up your life if you don’t handle them right away. It is not extra money for Black Friday or for that person who bought you something and you 100% did not expect it.
Think “job loss” not “great sale” when it comes to your emergency fund. The holidays come the same time each year and you can plan for them.
Haven’t saved all year long for the holidays? What you can do is take a look at what you spent last year by checking out your bank statements or any other budgeting tools you might use. Now this number might surprise you (or make you nauseous). Seeing as the average American spends close to $1000 on the holidays there are plenty of people pulling that average up.
If you have an idea in your head about how much you can spend divide that by the number of weeks you have left to save. If you can’t save that much each paycheck reassess how much you can save and start ASAP.
Set your new total spending goal with that in mind. No matter what – have an amount in your head that you can afford. This will avoid going deep in debt and hating your life come January. It just isn’t worth it to overspend when there are a few months left to plan. You can make it happen even on a budget.
2. Cut that holiday list DOWN
Some people are givers. My mother hasn’t met a person she didn’t want to do something nice for. While that makes her an amazing person it also is a recipe for being extremely stressed out and broke around the holidays. In direct opposition to how she handled the holidays I have a rather small list of people to shop for. Stress is something I try to avoid at all costs so shopping for everyone is something I can’t do.
Make a list of the people in your life you WANT to shop for and another for the ones you feel you HAVE to. If you can, reach out to those people and explain that you aren’t going crazy this year with gifts but see if they want to do something together instead like get a coffee or watch a movie.
The people who are on the list of “have to” shop for probably feel the same way about you. That does not mean they do not love you – it just gets REALLY expensive for all of us! I have no problem leading the way by letting people know they are off the hook with me. I want to make Christmas special for my kids and part of that means having a Mom that isn’t in tears trying to make everyone else happy. Also, who doesn’t want to hang out with friends and watch The Holiday or Love Actually instead?
3. Put that list and budget to work
If you know how much you can afford this year and who you want to buy for it is time to start thinking about WHAT you want to buy. Giving a great gift feels good – so does getting one. If you stock up on gifts that are the Black Friday deal near the register and then assign them out to people you are doing that for YOU and not them. Getting a good deal also feels good. Receiving something that was a good deal with no thought behind it sends a different message. Don’t try and say you are doing that kind of shopping for other people. You are hunting my friend, and you are doing it for sport. Own it if you are out their getting it done but find great deals on gifts you had in mind before you left the car.
My one request for Black Friday shoppers is to have an idea what you want to get a particular person before you head out there. Get that great gift at the best price you can find and move on. A “good deal” does not mean it isn’t crap that no one wants.
OK, that may sound harsh but it is true. Sales are fun but can lead to mindless boring gifts. We’ve all been the recipient of one. The sweater that isn’t your style but they can’t wait to tell you the deal they got on it. The item of the week that somehow ends up in you and your sister and your brother’s lap. Spend just a little time writing out the names of the people you want to shop for and an idea of what they would like. If you don’t know – ASK THEM! I don’t know a single person that would rather get something you found on sale over something they asked for themselves.
Do you remember “Christmas Clubs” when you were growing up? They made total sense then and still do today! Let me know your best holiday spending tips in the comments!
P.S. Some people are so important they get their own post. Check out this post what to buy TEACHERS for the holidays!