Money Monday: 4 Ways to Keep Holiday Spending in Check

With one of the biggest spending events of the year right around the corner, now is the time to put some solid holiday money tips into action. 

Posted: 11/19/2012 08:00 AM EST

It’s never easy to turn away from those beautiful gifts that you know your friends or relatives will adore, even if it means going into hock over it. And while we can’t always afford every single gift, dinner, trip, and/or event that we’d like to take part in during this time of the year, there are some solid tips that you can use to ensure a good time is had by all…and without breaking the bank.

 

Of course, the best time to start budgeting for the holidays is at the start of the New Year, but since it’s a little late for that we’ll help you focus on spending your money wisely and with the best results. According to National Retail Federation’s holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more this season up slightly from the $740.57 that they spent last year. NRF is forecasting holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion overall.

 

Here are five tips that you can start using today to keep your holiday spending in check and to avoid a major financial hangover on Jan. 2, 2013:

 

1. Kick off the holiday by setting a realistic budget. Spending willy-nilly and hoping that your credit cards will support the additional load is not a good way to spread holiday cheer. A better approach is to set a realistic budget that’s based on your discretionary income (what’s left after you pay your housing bills, utilities, and other obligations) and what you’ve (a-hem) saved this year for holiday spending.

 

2. Make a list and then check it twice. Make up a list of all your gift recipients and what you want to get them. As you make your purchases, cross them off your list (but leave them visible so that you don’t “forget” and end up doubling your efforts at a later date).

 

3. Take the time to shop around. When money is tight the last thing you want to do is run up your credit card bills and get yourself further into debt. You can use this calculator to figure out how long it will take to pay off your debt. And while the holidays can be a difficult time to practice discretion. A few trips to your favorite department store’s bargain basement or to off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls (which sell trendy merchandise at a fraction of the cost) will help you fulfill your list without breaking the bank.

 

4. There’s an app for that. Technology has put the power into the hands of the consumer. Whether you’re comparison shopping, trying to find a specialty store, or simply tracking your purchases, your smartphone can help. Check out apps like Slice for organizing your online shopping, TGI Black Friday for searching thousands of post-Thanksgiving Black Friday deals, and Wunderlist for creating, organizing, and storing gift lists. (The apps are available in the Apple App Store (for iPhone and iPad) and the Google Play Store [for Android].)

 

This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The accuracy and completeness of this information is not guaranteed and is subject to change. Since each individual’s financial situation is unique, you need to review your financial objectives to determine which approaches might work best for you.

 

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(Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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