Holiday Spending Tips from FreedomPlus

Now that fall has officially arrived, it won’t be long until the holiday celebrations begin. In fact, there is a pretty good chance your local stores have already begun setting out the festive decorations, toys, and holiday gift items. And before you blink, it will be December. This time of year is filled with jolly good times and a whole lot of spending. While it is fun to buy gifts, decorate your home, and make holiday plans, the money can add up quickly. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, holiday spending averages over $750 per person!

If you have this kind of money to spend, that is awesome. Unfortunately, not everyone does, yet with the help of the good old credit cards, they still spend it. One Consumer Reports survey showed that over a third of all people who make a holiday budget end up going over it. FreedomPlus recommends that you start preparing for the holidays early (like now) so that you are not hit with a financial burden right before the holidays. This 6-week plan could help you better prepare for the holidays.

Week #1: Make a Plan

Write down a list of all your anticipated holiday expenses. This includes gifts to friends and family, teacher gifts if you have children, extra tips for those whose services you use regularly (such as your hairdresser), holiday clothing, entertainment, and anything else that normally spend money on during the holidays. Add up the amount and make sure that you can afford everything in the next 10 weeks. If not, either find a way to scale it back or cut out some of your other spendings during this time and allocate it to your holiday fund.

Week #2: Shop Early

Granted, your friends and family might think you are a little “gung-ho” if you start your holiday shopping before it is even Halloween, but it is worth it. (And they may wish they had don’t the same as they are fighting those holiday crowds at the shopping mall in December.) Starting early allows you time to watch for the best deals, use coupons. According to FreedomPlus, this is also a great time to cash in some of your credit card rewards.

Week #3: Cash in Rewards

These days you can find all sorts of rewards to use. Whether through your credit cards of with apps like Ibotta and Swagbucks, there are plenty of ways to earn rewards. And now is the time to cash them in. Plan to invest them in your holiday spending if you haven’t already. If you aren’t using these reward sites already, it is never too late to start. You can always let them accumulate for next year.

Week #4: Look for Online Deals

Another great way to shop (and save) is online. Using your budget, write down a list of items you want to shop for that stay within your limits and start looking for deals online. Not only can you find good deals online, you won’t be as tempted to buy things impulsively as you would be when you are in a store shopping. Just remember to shop safely and use only secure, trusted sites. FreedomPlus recommends that you change your passwords regularly for added safety.

Week #5: Create Hand-made Gifts

Hand-made gifts make wonderful gifts (especially if you are shopping for someone who seems to have everything already). They are personalized, meaningful, and easy on your budget. This can be anything from a great craft that you found on Pinterest to a “coupon” book offering services such as free babysitting. Get as creative as you want with this. The person receiving your gift (and your pocketbook) will thank you. It is a win-win situation.

Week # 6: Avoid Using the Credit Cards

As tempting as those Black Friday sales may be, avoid the temptation of charging that brand new television (that you didn’t budget for) because it is a good deal. Stick to the budget you created and examine it regularly. See where you managed to save money, and always check your budget again before you make another purchase. FreedomPlus suggests that you are diligent about using cash or your debit card when buying gifts. So many things come up during the holiday season, so don’t kid yourself with the idea that you are going to pay off the balance in December when your credit card bill comes in.

Week #7: Reassess your Strategy

As the holidays draw near, take another good look at your budget. Did you go over it? If so, look at the purchases you made and see if there are some things that you could return. You can always find a smaller, less expensive gift that fits within your budget. Review your gift list once again, and make sure it is reasonable for your situation.

Week #8: Eat at Home

Let’s face it, the holidays are times of indulgence. Food, drinks, sweets galore….there is plenty to go around at the office, at school and holiday gatherings. So who needs to eat out right now? Save money by eating at home. Think you are too busy or not a fan of cooking? There are plenty of tasty frozen meals out there that require little more than popping in the microwave, and they are much cheaper than eating out.

At FreedomPlus, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday season that filled with joy and not debt.

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