Holiday expenses can stack up quickly. You might be paying for gifts for family, friends and coworkers, more meals out, travel to visit relatives, decorations and more. With high bills looming, it can make a fun season stressful.
Ideally, you’ve been carefully saving for the extra expenses associated with the holiday season. Many lists of holiday budget tips start with just that advice: start early and plan ahead. But how do you budget when the time to plan ahead has passed? Even if you did save up, sometimes an emergency expense or unexpected change comes up, quickly eroding your holiday budget. What now?
It is still possible to have fun this season, participate in the events and gift exchanges you want to, and come out on the other side of the holidays with some money left in your bank account. Check out these last-minute holiday budgeting tips to help get you through the season, whether you’re looking for a plan b or examining your options for the first time.
Tip #1: Make a List
Even though you might feel like you’re running out of time, it can still be beneficial to stop and make a list of holiday expenses. It doesn’t have to be formal! First write down anyone you are thinking of purchasing a gift for, then make a list of any upcoming events that have costs tied to them. Include a rough estimate of how much you plan to spend on each line item. Err on the side of rounding up! This will give you an approximate total of holiday expenses, before making any cuts.
Tip #2: Look for Ways to Trim and Consolidate
After reviewing your list of holiday expenses, compare it to the available funds in your bank account. If the budget is more than you have available, or if it will wipe out your savings, it’s time to look at ways to consolidate or trim the list. Even if you would be able to cover all of the costs, there’s probably room to cut back.
Take another look at that list. Do you have more than one coworker listed? Have a large family or friend group? Consider pitching a gift exchange to decrease the number of gifts you have to purchase. Chances are, other members of your social groups are looking for ways to cut back as well and will welcome the opportunity.
You can also look for ways to trim social expenses while still having a good time. If you were planning on purchasing new clothes for a holiday party, consider borrowing an outfit from a friend instead. You still get a fresh look for the event without the extra cost. Thinking of using a ride-share service? Split the cost between one or more friends to save on the trip.
Tip #3: Stick to Cash and Debit
One way holiday shoppers get in trouble is by relying too heavily on credit cards. If you’re facing last-minute expenses, it can be easy to immediately jump to using credit. However, leaning on credit doesn’t decrease your spending, and it can extend your financial stress by adding interest payments into the mix.
After you’ve consolidated your holiday expense list, consider using only cash or your debit card for your holiday expenses to avoid starting the New Year in debt. By sticking to using only the funds you have available, you can also limit overspending past your planned budget. Thankfully, there is no minimum balance requirement for the Simply Right Checking account. Plus, if you’re utilizing online or mobile banking options in conjunction with Simply Right Checking, you can quickly check your account balances to help avoid overdrafts.
Tip #4: Keep Track of Your Expenses for Next Year
Once the holiday season is over, take a look at how much you ended up spending. Tracking this information is a great source for holiday budgeting for next year, and you can even get a head start in January. Consider dividing up the amount you spent this year into chunks that you can transfer from your Simply Right Checking account directly to your savings account each month. By setting aside funds early, hopefully you can avoid last-minute financial stress in future years.