4 Ways to Budget for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe that there’s only a few more weekends till we hit full holiday swing. Holiday music, holiday decorations, holiday advertisements are about to inundate all our senses...not the least of which is emotional spending. It’s easy to get caught up in holiday-related spending. From holiday cards to decor to foods to gifts, the average shopper spends upwards of $700 just on getting into the holiday spirit.

Regardless of whether that sounds like a little or a lot to you, the key to keeping holiday spending in line is to take the same approach you would in any financial situation: make a budget that fits your means.  US News makes these recommendations:

1. Figure out how much you have to spend

Even if your financial situation hasn’t drastically changed in the past year, figure out how money you need to get by in a given month, as well as how much needs to go into retirement and/or savings accounts, and so on. Whatever is left can be the starting point for your holiday spending.

2. Compare with last year

Did you make a budget last year? How much did you spend? Did you buy more or less than you needed--and do you need to make those same adjustments this year? Use that historical knowledge when planning this year, from the surprise gifts you needed to purchase to decorations that you can reuse this year.

3. Comparison shop

It seems counter intuitive, but there are actually better deals in the days leading up to December 25 than on Black Friday. However, if there is a specific big-ticket item that you need to purchase, start tracking it now and watch for a price that fits your budget...while you might not get it at the *lowest* price, it’s better than not having it, right?

4. Try not to rely on credit cards

Be smart and don’t make a list which you can’t afford (and yes, planning to purchase with credit = cannot afford). Holiday overspending is an easy trap to fall into, and it’s fun to spoil the ones we love. But how much fun is it to enter the New Year in debt?

How do you build your holiday budget?