I love the holidays. I love the look of the bright lights, beautifully wrapped packages, and holiday decorations. I even love the music in small doses.
More than that, I enjoy sharing this time of year with loved ones — for me it’s my kids, my husband, and my best friends.
And I love the shopping, either online or at a boutiquey store to find something special that is soooo the personality of the gift recipient. It’s personally my way of focusing on the essence of who they are and spoiling them a little bit.
Because we all need to be a smidgen spoiled in life.
With that being said, the holidays can be more expensive than the rest of the year.
Unless you’re a total hermit (which means you wouldn’t be reading this in the first place), it’s likely you’ll increase your spending habits during this time of year.
For 2019, industry experts expect the average American to spend $920 per person on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion in holiday spending.
33% expected to spend at least $1000 on gifts.
22% expected to spend between $500 and $999.
29% expected gift spending to be between $100 and $499.
3% planned to spend less than $100.
Nearly every year since 2008, the amount of money that American consumers spend on holiday gifts has been increasing over the previous year.
Over the past decade, e-commerce has captured an increasing swath of the holiday spending market share, with many buying their toys, electronics, and jewelry online.
That is a lot of money!
Dealing with this large amount of money, it’s important to spend your money wisely.
This article focuses on how to plan for the upcoming holidays so you’re able to have enough money and not charge on credit cards or overspend your checking account. However, this does nothing for you right now, in the middle of holiday season. So, I’m going to break this into to parts: what you can do right now, and what you can do later.
What you can do RIGHT NOW while in the middle of your holiday spending
If you’re starting to feel a little queasy because you’ve been using that credit card and your balance keeps increasing (or your checking account is decreasing from debit spending), it’s not too late to stop the hemorrhaging of cash.
You can do this in 9 semi-easy steps!
It’s going to take you about an hour (and maybe a glass of wine). This is a small amount of time well-spent. But, you have to be serious about this. You have to be ALL IN, because it will take looking at things you may rather want to ignore. It’s going to be taking a hard look at your money.
The following is a guideline. Alter it to however it fits you. Here we go:
- Make a list and check it twice: Write down categories of where you think you’re spending your money for this holiday year. If you’re buying gifts, write down each recipient for your list. Don’t forget the Secret Santa at work, or the White Elephant at your friend’s party. Also include anything not gift related: decorations, eating out, party related spending, etc. You can even include the increase in the electricity bill if you want.
- Attach a monetary expense: With each category, put a dollar amount you’d like to spend. If you don’t know, then guess. This isn’t rocket science. Nobody is going to judge you. This is for your own personal information.
- Breaktime: Okay, after you’ve done that, go take a break. Because it can be overwhelming and cause increased anxiety. Remember, you’re in this for the good.
- Look at the bank account: Next, sit down at the computer and open up your banking account online. Or however you look at your bank spending in real time.
- Write down your expenses: Go through your recent transactions line-by-line and write down all the expenses you’ve made so far that are related to the holidays (like gifts and stuff). Place each expenditure in a category you’ve already written down.
- Total your categories: Total up each category and compare that real number with the number you’ve anticipated. See where you stand. Have you overspent in one category? Are you below budget? Have you even done your shopping yet? Take a grand sweep to see where you stand and where you want to be. This is going to be individual for you.
- Stop spending: If you’ve overspent in a category, you’re done. YOU’RE DONE! No more spending for that category. That means no buying extra holiday lights for the home, no buying that extra gift you thought was a great idea for your bestie. If you have a holiday party, make something to bring. If you have a White Elephant party, find something in your home that would be hilarious and you don’t want it any more (it’s a WHITE ELEPHANT party!).
- Do something special: If you feel like you haven’t given enough of you to the person on your list yet, sit down and write them a letter. Handwritten only. Tell them how much your relationship means to you. Be nostalgic over the past year, or the entire relationship. Be uplifting and positive. Show them love through your words. It doesn’t have to be a long letter, just heartfelt. This will be the most important gift they’ll receive from you, more than expensive gift-giving. If writing a letter isn’t your thing, find something that is your thing and requires only your time.
- Enjoy: Kick back and enjoy the rest of your holiday season, and connect with the people you love.
Don’t stop here. Read on, there’s more. Because you don’t want to play catch-up again next year.
Using your money without using your credit cards (or overspending on your debit card)
Every year is a financial challenge for people around this time of year. It’s like the December-Mardis-Gras-before-Lent season; spend, party, overeat, overspend, overbook, spend some more…whew! Then suffer the hangover in January.
However, you can get through the holidays and come out the other side without money regrets, but it will take some planning and that starts now — for next year.
Because in order to plan, you must take action before the event happens. That’s why it’s called planning.
This money mindset is going to get you through every holiday. If you use this tactic every year, you will refine it until it’s a well-oiled machine, and you’ll barely have to think about it. It’s about changing habits, so it will take discipline.
If you want to refer to this article after the holidays, you can always save it to your history, then refer back to it when the holiday season is over and you’re ready to take action for next year.
There are many ways to do this, but here’s my way.
I’ve simplified it so it doesn’t take an accounting degree (something I don’t have), to do this. I like simple math. If you want something more precise, then this may be a good idea to start with, and you can tweak it to your liking.
Here’s the steps:
- Make a New Year’s Resolution: When the holidays are over (say, in January), this will be the best time to dedicate yourself to a commitment for the New Year to spend differently.
- Gather your transactions: Go back to all your bank transactions for past couple months. Mid-November would be a good starting place.
- Tally up your spending: Go through line-by-line again and mark all the transactions that were holiday spending related. You don’t need to categorize your spending. You only need a total number. Include everything that was even remotely related to the holidays. It’s better to err on the side of caution here.
- Find your spending $$ number: Once you’ve gone through all your transactions, you’ll have a total number to work with. This is your total spending for the holidays. Let’s say the number is $1000.00.
- Add for inflation: Now, add 10% onto that number. This will make your total number $1100.00 (I use 10% based on the article referenced earlier showing a rise in spending from last year to this year, which is slightly under 10%).
- Calculate your paychecks: How often do you get paid? Once per month? Twice per month? Every two weeks? Calculate all your expected paychecks until Mid-November of this year. If you’re paid every two weeks, it will be approximately 23 paychecks.
- Do some simple math: Divide your total number ($1100.00) by your amount of expected paychecks (23 paychecks): $1100 divided by 23= $47.83 (you can round it to $50.00 if you like). This is how much you set aside every paycheck for the upcoming holidays.
- Deduct from every paycheck: This is the amount (our example of $47.83) is what you’re going to need to save from every paycheck to afford your holidays for the upcoming year. Put this money aside however works for you; in a separate checking account, tucked in your mattress, whatever. But put it aside so you don’t get into it and spend it beforehand.
You can use this technique for anything you need to save up for a larger purchase. Holiday spending is only one money concept. If you approach your spending with a plan in mind, make a goal and take action, you’ll find you have more than enough money when you need it.
Michelle Jaqua is a blogger on Medium.com. She writes to inspire people towards personal development and to live a passionate life. Sometimes she just writes about life. If you’d like to see her other developing projects, sign up for her mailing list here.