Whether it’s hosting family and friends, purchasing gifts, preparing bigger meals than normal, or simply spending a little extra money to decorate your home, holidays usually mean added expenses and more pressure on household spending. That’s why implementing and following an effective budget is even more critical during the holiday season—you don’t want a few weeks of frenzied shopping to ruin a year’s worth of smart financial planning.
Here are a few tips on how to budget for the holidays, and avoid splurging or overspending.
Cover all the bases
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to divide and conquer out-of-control spending! By creating separate budgeting ‘buckets’ for all your holiday-related expenses, it’s easy to review your available funds, set a realistic budget, and reassess your plans as needed.
Once you’ve roughed out your holiday plans, categorize all the associated expenses to see where the money is (potentially) going. For example, if you’re hoping to take a trip to visit family out-of-state, create separate categories for travel expenses, houses/petsitting fees, gifting expenditures, etc. If air travel is super pricey and the fee for boarding your pet sky-high, then maybe consider a road trip with Fido instead. If air travel is your only option, perhaps you pare down your gift-giving budget and opt for affordable homemade gifts and small stocking stuffers instead of more expensive alternatives.
Find the perfect gift
Gift-giving is a joyous element of many holidays, but it’s easy to get carried away if you don’t keep a close eye on your spending. Whether it’s the must-have toy of the season, a pair of opera tickets, or a bottle of fine wine, it’s important to carefully plan out your gifting expenses and work these into your holiday budget.
Use notes, tags, and reminders in Evernote to find the perfect gift for all the important people in your life. As they casually mention their wants and needs throughout the year, capture those breadcrumbs in a special “gift ideas” note, then set a reminder to start shopping four to six weeks ahead of an important holiday. Or you can create a new, individual note for every significant person (family, friends, coworkers, etc.), add tags so they’re easy to find whenever you have a ‘lightbulb’ moment, and set reminders to start your shopping early and avoid any last-minute panic.
Power tip: If you have a long list of people to shop for but you’re short on ideas, consider gifting experiences rather than physical items. Instead of buying an Easy-Bake Oven for your Bake-Off obsessed daughter, why not purchase cooking lessons for the two of you? That way she gets real-life practice and you both get to spend some quality time together.
Plan (and purchase) ahead of time
When it comes to the holidays, planning and budgeting in advance allows you to save both time and money. It can be tempting to wait for a last-minute sale or deal, but in many cases, buying sooner rather than later is the best approach. It’s especially true now, as retailers aren’t waiting until Black Friday to roll out their incentives. These days the shopping starts early, as soon as Halloween is over.
That isn’t the only reason to start shopping sooner rather than later, however. Buying early ensures your purchases won’t be affected by shipping delays. Also, planning ahead gives you an opportunity to group purchases from the same retailer, potentially reducing shipping fees or earning rewards for future purchases.
Power tip: Use Web Clipper to clip and save special offers or great deals. Tag them accordingly and then when it comes time to buy, you can easily locate that “50 percent off” coupon code. Set reminders for expiration dates so you don’t miss out on potential savings.
Record your expenses
More than anything else, properly keeping track of your expenditures can ensure you stay within your holiday budget and don’t encounter any nasty surprises. Save your invoices, receipts, and bills, and store them in an organized place so you can check your progress regularly and make sure you’re not overspending. It’s also a good idea to take a minute and review your expenditures once the holiday is over so you can better plan your budget for the next year—spotting places where you spent more or less than you anticipated and identifying possible areas for course correction.
Power tip: Use the Evernote document scanner app to scan important documents such as receipts and invoices, then keep them in the app. You can also email receipts to your Evernote account if you do most of your shopping online. Add tags to organize them by category—for example, a ride-sharing receipt to the airport could be tagged “Holiday” and “Travel” so it’s easy to find later.
The holidays are here—spend them well
Holiday budgeting can seem challenging at first, but like everything else, it improves with practice. The right tools can make the process much easier, helping you stay within your holiday budget while ensuring you make the most of the occasion.
Digital apps allow for organization and ease of access, so you can keep information like gift ideas, estimated costs, and receipts in one place. They can also help you analyze your spending habits and find places to improve. Whether you’re new to holiday planning or you’ve been doing it for years, the right tool can do the heavy lifting so you have time for the important things in life: family, friends, and fun.