6 Ways to Plan Ahead for Holiday Expenses

From gift shopping, to decorating, to holiday cards, there’s the potential to spend quite a bit of money during the holidays. Americans averaged $1,230 of debt during the 2018 holidays, according to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey. Here are a few ways to help make the holidays less expensive.

Make a Gift List

Pretty sure Santa doesn’t wait until December to make his list and check it twice, and neither should you! Having gift ideas for everyone on your list ahead of time will allow you to take advantage of any sales and deals that pop up between now and December. It also gives you the opportunity to be more thoughtful about your gift giving. Think about what your recipients will truly love. Remember that you don’t have to buy a gift for everyone you know. Stick to a budget and prioritize to cut down on spending.

Shop Early

Waiting until the last minute to do your holiday shopping often results in overspending because you’ll be under pressure. Finding the presents you want late in the game will also be a lot more difficult because store inventory for in-demand items will be lower. To make sure you get the gifts you want and prevent stress, don’t procrastinate. Get your shopping done in advance.

Get Started on DIY gifts

If you want to save money on gifts, you can create your own. But making presents takes time, so you should start brainstorming craft ideas and gathering all the supplies you need, so you have enough time to complete everything before the holidays get here. Make a schedule to get the gifts done in time, so you aren’t scrambling at the end of the year.

Make Time for Your Holiday Cards

Sending out holiday cards can be a lot of work. If you want to take a family photo you’ll have to book a photographer. Waiting until the last minute can make an appointment difficult, so schedule early. Family photos also require some planning. You’ll need to consider outfits and locations. Plus, there’s the time to process the photos, you’ll have to go through the proofs and then order your cards. Make a list of all your recipients and their addresses, so you’re prepared to mail your cards in December.

Plan Your Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays is a lot of fun, but it can be time-consuming and expensive. Get ahead of the costs and the pressure by making a plan for your décor. Jot down a list of what you already have in storage and what you need to purchase this year. Try doing this for each room you want to decorate, and any exterior spots you want to bedazzle. Make a rough sketch of where you want everything to go in each place. You don’t have to be an artist to do this. Once you know the layout, get together the materials required to realize your vision, put them in a bin and label them with the room they go in. When it’s time to decorate you’ll have everything you need in one place and a plan to make your house festive. To save money, cut back on the number of spots you decorate.

Save Throughout the Year

Start saving for the holidays as soon as you can. If you wait until December to start shopping you will likely spend more money out of desperation. Saving a few months out isn’t bad, but if you really want to get ahead, try and save throughout the year. Make a spreadsheet that breaks down expenses by categories such as gifts, decorations, charitable giving, entertainment and travel. Then create a savings account specifically for holiday spending. This will ensure you have the funds needed and will help prevent you from using the money for something else. Automate deposits into the account to set aside money more easily. 

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