What’s Your Holiday Spending Strategy?

It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving—and spending.

Gift boxes with bow and snowflakes

According to the National Federation of Retailers, a 2015 survey reported that consumers planned to spend approximately $800 on things like holiday decorations, food and gifts. Have you considered what your budget will be? And what about travel costs?  It’s easy to let the dollar amount soar if you don’t rein in spending now.

Here are some tips to help you plan smart, save money and avoid a debt hangover.

Crunch the Numbers Now

It’s easy to overspend in a season known for giving. But the sooner you develop your financial game plan, the better off you’ll be. Financial experts say that you should spend no more than 1.5% of your annual salary on your holiday spending budget. So if your family income is 75,000, your holiday budget would be $1,125. You may want to set aside money in a special savings account, so when the money’s gone, you’re done shopping!

Make a List and Be Creative

When you write down all the people you want to give to, your holiday budget will help you decide what to give each person: whether it’s a store-bought gift, card or something you’ve created.  There are plenty of ways to keep costs down. Homemade gifts are always appreciated, and you can find a ton of innovative, affordable ideas on sites like Pinterest, HGTV or Real Simple. Or, think about purchasing gift cards or magazine subscriptions, which make great stocking stuffers. If you have a big family, consider drawing names and setting a dollar amount, which makes the holidays more about celebrating togetherness, rather than stressing out about whether or not you remembered to get a gift for everyone. And just because some people go overboard when it comes to spending, remember your promise to yourself: to stick with what you can afford and steer clear of debt.

Shop Earlier, Rather Than Later

Keep track of your spending as you go using a budgeting program or app, and you can be done before December even hits. After all, there are sales all year round, not just on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Use trusted mobile apps and cyber coupons to help you comparison shop. Search trusted app stores only, such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play.  Shopping online can help you save on time and gas costs, and you can also take advantage of free shipping and affordable gift-wrapping.

Be Smart Using Credit

Some credit card companies offer extra rewards to incentivize you to spend during the holidays, which can really help your bottom line. However, if you think you’re going to overdo it and rack up a balance you can’t pay off, stick with a debit card or cash.

Book Your Travel Ahead of Time

Just as you may start your holiday shopping in October, according to the Annual Global Air Travel Outlook, you should plan on purchasing airline tickets two months out. And this year, the research shows that weekends may be the best time to get the lowest prices, although anytime you can find a cost-saving deal go for it before the price changes. Want to save even more? Consider bundling your airfare, rental car and hotels by using discount travel sites, or work with a travel agent who can help you save both time and money by ferreting out the best deals.

When renting a car, it pays to book early as well. Avoid add-ons like paying for extra insurance coverage. Some insurers offer liability coverage for rentals, and your credit card may offer rental car protection as a benefit. Read Financial Moves for a Great Vacation  for more money-saving tips.



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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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