This year, the holiday shopping season will begin before you carve the turkey. Many retailers plan to start Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. Once billed as the biggest shopping day of the year with the biggest deals, the Friday following Thanksgiving has now become a larger marketing opportunity replete with doorbuster sales during the entire week of Thanksgiving. But before you get swept up in the holiday madness, there is one thing you must do: make a list. I don’t mean the list that you check twice to find out who’s naughty or nice. That’s Santa’s job. Your job is to make a budget and stick to it. It is the best holiday gift you can give yourself and your family.
According to a recent survey by Bankrate, the average shopper will spend an average of $805 during the 2015 holiday season on gifts, decorations and food. For many people, that’s a large amount of money. Experts recommend you start saving for the holidays one year in advance. You can set up a savings account and deposit a certain amount every paycheck; $10 every two weeks will total $260 a year, or $20 every weeks equals $520 a year. If you don’t have a holiday savings account, don’t worry. You can have a great holiday season without breaking the bank.
The first step: determine your budget. Financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5% of your annual income on the holiday season. For example, someone earning a salary of $30,000 per year should have a maximum budget of $450. This is a good guideline even if difficult to meet. You need to know exactly how much money you have available in cash before you start shopping. Once you determine that amount, decide how you’re going to spend it. Consider all your major spending categories: gifts, entertaining, food, decorations, travel, and the like. Allot a certain amount of money to each category and stick to it.
Holiday gifts are usually at the top of the list. We love and appreciate our family and friends, and we want to express that during the holidays. However, a great gift doesn’t have to mean a big price tag. On your gift list, write down the maximum amount you can spend on each person based on your budget. That number will determine what you can afford to buy and what should stay on the shelf. Keep in mind, many people like gift cards and homemade gifts such as cookies, jam, knitted sweaters and framed family pictures.
HOC has other tips to help you save money this holiday season. We asked Luis Montoya, our Financial Literacy Counselor, for some pointers and here’s what he had to say: