The holiday season is here. The streets are colored with lights, bell ringers are in front of stores and shopping centers will soon be bustling with Black Friday shoppers. For many, the holidays are the best time of the year, but their wallet might say otherwise.
Last year, the American Research Group estimated that each U.S. shopper would spend an average of $929 on gifts alone, and 56 percent of Americans would be stuck paying off their holiday debt for six months or more.
Finding time to decorate the house, buy gifts and plan get-togethers all while managing your studies can be exhausting in itself. Coupled with added financial strain, the holidays can be seriously overwhelming.
Tackle your stress and financial headaches early this holiday season with tips designed to help you spend your time and money wisely:
Create a budget
Before you head out on your holiday shopping spree, set up a budget. Determine how much you’re willing to spend and try to avoid exceeding your limit. In addition to your regular weekly/monthly expenses, you’ll have to account for extra money spent on gifts, decorations and nights out. After you have developed your overall budget, it may help to develop a secondary budget specifically for your “extra” holiday expenses. For example, using your allotted gifts budget, break out how much you plan to spend on each person on your list.
Another way to save money during the holiday season is to plan ahead. If you are responsible for preparing a meal for an event or holiday party, decide what you are going to make and watch for the ingredients to go on sale. Many holiday food items can be frozen, so you can buy them in advance and thaw them when the time comes.
You can also plan ahead for your gift purchases. If you have a general idea of what you would like to give someone, watch for deals on that item and buy when the price is right. Retailers often raise the prices of desired items during the holiday, so planning and purchasing ahead of time can help to save you from these price surges.
Pay with cash
Another money-saving hack for the holiday season is to pay with cash or debit as often as possible. Studies have shown that people tend to overspend when they use credit cards. When you go shopping, only bring the amount of cash that fits within your predetermined budget. This way, you’ll be forced to stay within your budget.
Bonus tip: You can put these concepts into practice for managing your schoolwork as well. Compile a list of all the assignments and tasks you’ll have to complete by the end of the month, and factor in how much additional time you’ll need for your holiday activities. Then, try to break up your tasks into manageable pieces, and set aside an hour or more each day for studying. Building time for school into your overall to-do list will help you avoid late-semester stress and ensure that you can ring in the holidays with cheer.