The holidays can be relaxing and enjoyable as you share time with family and friends; but they may also be stressful for those trying to stretch their budget to cover related holiday costs ranging from meals to decorations, gifts and travel. For those worried about holiday spending, there are many ways to control expenses, including spreading them over a longer period of time and shopping sales throughout the year. Another option is to save a little extra money each month, so you can enjoy shopping during the holiday season.
Regrettably, many people do not take advantage of the time they have to prepare for holiday expenses. Being unprepared for seasonal spending leads some shoppers to overextend their credit cards, forcing them to start the new year with more credit card debt and interest charges. But there are a number of alternative ways to afford holidays and manage your finances—including debt—which may save you time, effort and stress, in addition to money. Here are a few suggestions:
- Save and spend rewards from credit cards: Sign up for a credit card that offers reward points which can be used to redeem merchandise, travel and cash back. If you build up points throughout the year, you should be able to redeem them for gift cards and other items without spending a penny.
- Add purpose-specific savings accounts: Start saving early in the year for holiday expenses by setting up an additional savings account, separate from your primary savings. Delta Community members can establish an unlimited number of additional Personal Savings Accounts, which earn the same interest as primary Savings Accounts. Naming the accounts for specific savings goals, such as a “Vacation” or “New Car”, may even inspire you to save more money. With patience and not too much effort, you could enjoy watching your savings grow for a Christmas cruise!
- Always bargain shop: In addition to hitting the sales in your favorite stores, always check out online sites for bargains, and take advantage of offers for free shipping.
- Shop early throughout the year: Shopping in advance of the holiday season spreads expenses out over a manageable length of time and gives you the opportunity to shop for items on sale. Even if you purchase gifts with a credit card, you can pay it off throughout the year and avoid having to pay off a large chunk of debt all at once. There are sales opportunities throughout year often tied to U.S. holidays, including Presidents' Day in February, Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July, Labor Day in September, Columbus Day in October, and Veterans' Day in November.
There is also giant online retailer Amazon's annual Prime Day in mid-July (which is just for Prime's paid program members), but Prime Day has made large store chains react to Amazon's event by offering big sales at about the same time. And you’ll find pre-holiday national sales days such as Black Friday in November (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday in December (the Monday after Thanksgiving).
- Consider the benefits of a personal loan: Consider whether a Personal Loan is a good alternative to credit cards for seasonal spending. There are also Holiday Loans that may be easier to repay, since their monthly payments are consistent. These loans offer competitive interest rates that may be lower than a credit card's, and; often, you will be able to choose from several payment options.
Perhaps the single best way to manage your money during the holidays is by spending only what you can afford. Better yet, instead of spending money, consider spending only your time and talent: gift someone with a homemade craft or food; make a date with friends and relatives to enjoy their company; volunteer at a homeless shelter or visit the residents of a nursing home. Such generous gestures have a double impact—they can make meaningful differences in the lives of recipients, and may even provide givers with emotional “feel good” boosts—something we can all appreciate during the holiday season.