At Fundamental Finance Academy, we love the holidays. The decorations and festive atmosphere are a nice pick up around Pearl Street in the midst of increasingly cold weather. Better still, we love seeing local businesses in Boulder, CO, get safely into the black between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even though sales have been down somewhat this year nationally, this is an extraordinarily important time for businesses of all types.
On the less jolly side of things, the holiday season can strain personal and family budgets to their breaking point. Between gifts, travel, and holiday dining out, it’s all too easy to lose track of your finances. To help our budget-conscious friends here in Boulder and elsewhere, we’ve put together a few money saving tips to help you manage your finances during the holidays.
1. Make a List, Check it Twice
Gift giving can be an obvious pain point for your checkbook during the holidays. We all want to give our friends and loved ones something special and every retailer and online vendor is competing vigorously for our attention and dollars. The solution is to approach gift giving with the same pragmatic approach you would use for any major single purchase like a car or new computer:
- – Start by writing out your priorities for gift giving and compiling a list of people you need/want to buy gifts for.
- – Decide on a top-dollar budget that won’t leave you deeper in debt in 2015 and stick to it dogmatically.
- – Allot a given amount (or less) to be spent on each gift recipient and go shopping with that number and sentiment in mind rather than specific items.
- – Where possible, try and stay flexible about exactly what you are looking for. The more obstinate you are in your gift selection, the harder it will be to keep your budget down.
No one wants to be a scrooge around the holidays, but no one should have to break into their retirement fund just to pay for gifts. No matter what it may feel like sometimes, remember that the holidays are not really about stuff; they are about spending time with the people who are important to you.
2. Book Your Sleigh Ride Early
Airlines never miss an opportunity to charge you extra for traveling, do they? From pillows to peanuts it seems that every year there is some ingenious new way to squeeze you for a little more cash when you fly. This is particularly true around the holiday season when a good number of credit card travel plans have blackout dates and ticket prices soar.
Airlines may get a lump of coal in their stockings for their yuletide greediness, but there are still ways to find good deals on travel during the holidays. One of the best is to book well in advance of your departure date. And by “well in advance” I mean that you should start planning your holiday travel for 2015 in the next couple of weeks. Sadly, if you haven’t booked your travel for this year, there’s not much to be done other than search for travel with flexible departure and return dates. Make next year a different story by booking your travel months in advance. While it may seem extreme to plan that far ahead, it can save you hundreds of dollars that will find a better use in next year’s gift budget or savings.
3. Gift Wrap a Lunch Before Shopping and Travel
This is one of those fundamental good habits that should never be overlooked, even when you are up to your eyeballs in gifts and festivities. Rather than shelling out your hard earned cash for a food court burger or in-flight ‘meal,’ take five minutes before you head out the door to pack some snacks or make a sandwich. Taking your food with you wherever you roam this holiday season is an easy way to significantly cut back on the cost of shopping. A few dollars saved here and there can add up quickly, so take the extra time to treat yourself to a homemade meal on the go.
That’s all for now, but we’ll have more tips and advice for getting your budget in order later in the month. Happy Holidays!