November 16, 2022 · Holiday, Savings, Budget, Credit

Tips to Manage Holiday Spending–Part 2

This blog post (Parts 1 and 2) is excerpted and adapted from one of the free Delta Community Financial Education Center live workshops, Tips to Manage Holiday Spending, which is being presented this month and is available to both Credit Union members and the general public. Please visit the Financial Education Center's Events & Seminars page to register for its monthly, no-cost webinars with practical, actionable advice on managing personal finances, including saving and spending suggestions. The work of the Financial Education Center reflects Delta Community’s mission to help both its members and others in the community achieve financial success.

The Financial Education Center workshop related to this post covers this topic in much more detail, and anyone interested in the subject of learning more about managing their finances can a Financial Education Center presentation.

It's not unusual to increase spending during the holidays as shoppers try to get the perfect gifts for family, friends, and colleagues. Being strategic in holiday spending now will help you prepare for and manage after-holiday bills in the new year.

Following—continued from Part 1 of this post—are more practical tips to ensure you stay on budget this year, rather than overspending during the holidays. The sections below focus on managing money, keeping track of expenses and creative gift giving.

Managing holiday money

It’s helpful to keep an easily available list of all your financial obligations. When you are tempted to overspend, remind yourself of those obligations. For example, for every dollar you spend on gifts this year, you could find a way to hold back that dollar from your regular spending. When the holidays come up next year, you can use those accumulated savings to buy presents. You can even set up a special holiday savings account just for the money you put away.

In addition to gifts, don’t forget all the other holiday-related expenses. These include such things as holiday clothing, the cost of shopping (gas, parking, food), decorations, holiday concerts and movies, food and drinks for parties, gift exchanges with work colleagues, greeting cards, family photos, postage for cards and packages, donating to charitable causes and travel expenses.

Need extra money to cover your holiday expenses? Consider selling items you don’t use anymore. This may be a good short-term solution if you didn’t budget for the holidays during the year. Also think about—very carefully—if a personal loan or line of credit may be helpful for holiday expense financing. For the remainder of 2022, Delta Community is offering a special Holiday Loan at a low fixed interest rate for a 12-month term. The low fixed rate and short term allows members to have access to extra funds during the holidays and then quickly pay off their loan with manageable monthly payments.

Are there any other areas in your spending you can cut back on in the next couple of months? Can you be more careful about ordering take-out food, cut out subscription services, get a cheaper cellphone service plan, or even request a holiday skip-a-payment on one of your loans?

Do you have any money in savings that is earmarked for holiday gifts? Also, check your wallet and drawers to see if there are any old gift cards that still have balances left. Every dollar counts.

Take advantage of post-holiday sales. Many people shop year around and are always on the lookout for holiday gifts. Clearance racks and shelves are a great place for bargains. Buy winter clothes at the end of the season in March and April in projected sizes and hide them away until the holidays. Buy wrapping paper and holiday decor at a deep discount after Christmas. One of the surest ways to overspend is to wait until the last minute and buy all your gifts in a rush. This makes an already stressful time even more stressful.

Spend carefully and keep track of expenses—so hold onto receipts

Don’t linger in stores. Less time in a store usually means fewer impulse purchases. Shop when you are pressed for time or with a trusted friend or relative who will firmly guide you away from unplanned purchases. If a gift on your list is on sale, buy it. If it isn’t, “just say no.”

Always hold on to receipts and add up expenses. Carefully keep receipts from your holiday purchases. Then use those receipts to track and add up every holiday expense at the end of every shopping trip. You can use money-tracking software, an electronic spreadsheet or pad of paper. Use whatever tool works for you and keeps you informed on your actual spending.

Take receipts back if gifts go on sale after they are purchased, and get the difference refunded. Did a gift go on sale after you bought it? Many retailers will allow you to get a price adjustment to recover money from the lowered cost. Check the company website first for its policy.

Earn and use credit card reward points for holiday expenses. 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.

A gift doesn’t have to be something you buy; be creative!

A gift can be creative and cost-effective. Consider giving group gifts that can be shared with multiple people, such as food. A creative idea is to provide an experience to enjoy instead of “things” has shown to be more rewarding and make people happier.

  • Provide personalized gifts. A small, thoughtful gift can be worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use. Some ideas are babysitting or pet-sitting services, snow shoveling, yard work, a handcrafted item for the home, a personally made holiday decoration, or herbs from a home herb garden. Homemade presents are great ways to save money while creating something memorable. These gifts might not work for everyone on your list, but they’re good options for some. Consider creating a photo album for grandparents or baking cookies for your kids’ teachers.
  • Make memories and traditions instead of (or in addition to) gifts. Add holiday cheer without breaking the bank. Play holiday music, drive around town and see the lights, do a scavenger hunt, make pies or cookies with family or friends, decorate gingerbread houses, go caroling, adopt a senior citizen for the holidays or make holiday crafts. Try giving children “something they need, something they want, something to read and something to wear.” Go to a religious service at a place of worship that is not your own. Read holiday stories and books, decorate the tree, make a paper chain countdown, watch holiday movies in pajamas or scrapbook the year’s events.
  • Give the gift of time. Mom and dad (or far-away family and friends) might love nothing more than a visit from you. Another idea? Writing up a "free night of babysitting" card for your family members with young children, or "good for a home-cooked meal" certificate for your relative that can be used when the time is right.
  • Organize group volunteering instead of holiday parties. Your friends may struggle with managing spending over the holidays. Give them the relief of forgoing buying gifts for you by organizing a group volunteer day instead. It's possible to volunteer virtually, too. You'll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than being anxious from spending more, and anyone can benefit from volunteering to help worthy causes and organizations.

Other holiday tips for spending and saving

Do you BALANCE™ your financial accounts?

BALANCE™ is a financial education and counseling organization that offers free services to Delta Community members. Some of its services include credit report reviews, debt management, and information on budgeting, money management and home buying.

Visit the BALANCE™ website to learn about their education and assistance programs. Members can also speak with certified credit and housing counselors to get personalized guidance.

Want to connect with a Financial Coach about your specific situation? Chat onlinee-mail, or call 1-888-456-2227 to speak with a Financial Coach today.

Note that the services offered through BALANCE™ are separate and distinct from any business conducted with Delta Community and are not guaranteed by, nor are they obligations of, the Credit Union.