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Practical Ways to Get A Head Start on This Holiday Season

By Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP® and Lazetta Rainey Braxton, MBA, CFP®

As difficult as it is to imagine, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Getting ahead of the stressful season by budgeting is a great way to give yourself time to actually enjoy the splendor of our varied cultural traditions. As we usher in the second half of the year, now is the time to check in and align your expectations with the goals you need to meet them.

According to Investopedia, “In 2020, the average cost of American spending was $998 on gifts, holiday items, and other expenses during the holiday season.” With those kinds of numbers, intentionality is key to ensuring you keep your sanity and holiday spirit afloat. Luckily, simple techniques and digital apps can prepare us well for the 2021 holiday season.

Here are our top tips.

List Your Holiday Expenses — Writing down on paper, or tracking your expenses in a spreadsheet will help eliminate the element of surprise. Keep in mind how you plan to wrap or ship your gifts and additional expenses related to holiday travel (gas, airfare, etc).

Refuse To Use Credit Cards — Buying Christmas gifts on credit will only put you in more financial stress. Unless you are adept at paying down credit every month, only use cash/debit for purchases to ensure you are sticking to your true budget.

Consider the YNAB (You Need A Budget) App — This is a great budgeting tool that can help retrain your brain to budget properly. This tool is based on the following four rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job

  2. Embrace your true expenses

  3. Roll with the punches

  4. Age your money

Consider Your Family Traditions — Be sure to break down the costs associated with annual traditions you know will be part of your holiday celebrations.

Reflect On 2020 Holiday Spending — Gauge what you spent last year and what spending might look like this year; be sure to analyze what was worth the money, and what turned out to be a waste of funds.

Earmark Money, Monthly — Similar to putting something on layaway, consider designating funds monthly for a particular purpose to have the proper amount reserved when the holidays approach. Great news, you have at least five months.

Choose Your Spending Limit — Don’t be afraid to set boundaries on gift buying and holiday travel. Families and friend groups might also elect to do gift exchanges instead that brings the same level of merriment, with less monetary commitment.

Keep an Eye Out — As the holiday season approaches, be sure to keep an eye out on Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, as well as sign-up for email communications from your favorite retailers and small businesses.

In lieu of being homebound, gas and airline prices are proving Americans continental travel to be very high this summer. Consumers will likely be just as eager to travel during the holiday season — especially if they are vaccinated. Those families who took precautions by holding back on spending last holiday season, will likely make up for it by splurging this holiday season. Fortunately, with the tips above, you can enjoy your beloved traditions without the financial strain.

What are your top tips to keep holiday spending in check?

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