Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

bewildered woman holding shopping bags outside under Christmas lights

The holidays will look different this year due to many different factors, including inflation. But, you don’t have to dip into the kids’ college savings to create a special time!

The most important thing to remember is plan ahead with a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Once you have your gift-recipient list, figure out a realistic amount you are able to spend on each person. Then, jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person.

Try a budgeting app like Mint to keep your spending in check. You can use Mint for your regular monthly budgeting, but it also allows you to allocate more funds for holiday purchases. Using graphs and reports, it shows you how much you’ve spent and how it will affect your budget in the months ahead.

You can also use the Money Management tool in your online banking. It is a great tool to track all your spending and set goals, see your spending trends, and net worth.

Shopping

Online shopping was already growing in popularity but due to the pandemic, it has become more common. Most people aren’t as worried about avoiding crowds, but online shopping is just easier and more convenient for so many. Retailers are well aware of this and are offering sales and discounts right up to Christmas.

Some other money-saving tips:

  • Spread out your holiday shopping over several weeks.
  • Shop with a list.
  • Shop the sales and find/use coupon codes for online purchases
  • If you’re shopping online, avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs by shopping at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service, which is free at most retailers.
  • Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name. There is no need to feel like you have to do it all. Let everyone pitch in, or even better, order take out!

Use DIY decor containing natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment and your budget. At my house, since I cook, everyone else does the clean up. If you implement that, you will probably get more help with the cooking at least!

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in incidentals beyond basic travel costs.

If you’re traveling by car, gasoline prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all, but if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. There are plenty of organizations that need our help.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.

We at Abilene Teachers FCU wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

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