I have a confession to make…I used to be a shopaholic. Yes, I loved to shop! Thankfully, after a few months of having to pay bills and going through withdrawal, I found myself rehabilitated. However, during the holidays I still tend to always go over my budget. I know that I’m not the only person in this situation. Many people have this problem as well, which is why this blog posting is one many of you can relate to!
While the constant rise of transportation, pay cuts, and lay offs don’t make the holidays any easier, you can always find ways of working within your budgets. I’ve had to learned this the hard way. You can budget as much as you want, but the only way it can truly be to your advantage is if you budget smartly and stick to it!
Below are a few tips that I like to call the Triple S Plan (Shopping Smartly with Savings) that I’ve taken from experts and personal experiences on how you can be money savvy not only this holiday season, but also year round!
1. Know How to Budget Well. Before even making your holiday list, take a look at your bank accounts and any extra money you have on hand. Then, make a break down of all the bills you have to pay and calculate how much your holiday budget can be. Bankrate.com advises to include everything from postage for holiday cards to party favors, in your budget. Another helpful hint is to fit in small budgets throughout the year so you can begin holiday shopping early.
2. Make a List and check it twice! Make a list of all the people you want to buy things for and how much you want to spend on each person. If you go over the budget you’ve allotted yourself, take a look at the list again and start cutting down the amount you can spend on each person. You might even have to cut people out of the list.
3. Don’t Go Over Your Budget! You created a budget for a reason, so stick to it! Keep reminding yourself that you can’t go over the amount you’ve allotted yourself to spend. Its helpful to carry around, in your check book, notebook or your phone, a list of how much you’ve spent, who you’ve spent it on and how much you have left.
4. Use Cash. When you use cash you don’t have to worry about interest rates and it’s a way for you to physically see how much money you’ve spent and how much you have left. Bankrate.com quotes, Clark Howard, co-author of the book Get Clark Smart: The Ultimate Guide for the Savvy Consumer “Set a limit, take that money out of your credit union or bank, and when that [money’s] gone, it’s over.”
5. If you use Credit Cards, stick to the ones with the lowest interest rates. Keep in mind that when you use credit cards you can end up paying up to three times more because of the interest rates. If you decide to use a credit card and you start paying it off remember that by only paying the minimum amount required there is a chance that you will be paying that bill for a really long time. Try to pay off your bill as soon as you receive it so you won’t have to give the credit card companies extra money.
6. Be creative! You don’t have to spend money on everyone, you can get creative! Instead of mailing out holiday cards, send out e-cards. They’re just as nice and some of them even dance and sing! 123greetings.com lets you send out e-cards for free without making any subscriptions. Go to Michaels or any other arts and crafts store and make gifts for people. You can make (knit) someone a shirt, draw/paint them a picture, make a photo album/scrapbook or even make jewelry! If you are an artist, give someone that has inspired you or appreciates your work a book of your poems, cooking recipes, or a recording of your songs. Anny Getty author of I’M Dreaming of a Green Christmas says, “When I was on a tight budget in the past, I gave hand-drawn gift certificates for a yoga or cooking class, both of which I teach. Or turn to your community and do trades — ask your masseuse friend for a couple of massage certificates and in turn cook her a meal for four.” Go to WeTV.com and take a lot at their creative gift wrapping ideas.
7. Use coupons. Coupons make a difference! There are tons of websites that you can go on to find coupons. I personallylike groupon.com. You can Google coupons for any particular store you want to shop in or look out for them inside your newspapers. Coupons books are also available for purchase at your local Rite Aids, Barnes and Nobles and Borders etc.
8. “Recycle” If you have any body wash, body splash etc. that you’ve never opened, you can wrap it up nicely and give it as a gift. Sherry Athay author of Present perfect: Unforgettable Gifts for Every Occasion, says “Regift. But do so carefully, and only if the gift is a good fit for the recipient. Unless it’s vintage or antique, don’t regift used items. Carefully check the item for inscriptions, monograms and other personalization. Rewrap it. And, above all, be sure you don’t give the gift to the one who gave it to you.”
9. Shop Online/Compare Prices. Before you actually start buying things for the people on your list, go to different stores and compare their prices. As you shop, keep in mind that sales are only sales when they are the cheapest bargain you can get. Shop at flea markets where things are cheaper and shop on websites such as eBay.com and amazon.com. I’ve found that online shopping is usually cheaper than in store shopping depending on the shipping and handling rates.
10. Finally, keep Reminding Yourself that YOU ARE ON A BUDGET.
As you celebrate the holidays with your loved ones keep in mind its not the most expensive gifts that count, it’s the thought and effort that you put into it.
Leave us your stories, comments and tips on being money savvy this holiday season and stay tuned for next week’s TORCH TIP THURSDAY!
The information for this posting was gathered from the following sources: CNN.com and Bankrate.com.