Before you know it, Santas, snowmen, mangers, and menorahs will start popping up on store shelves. They may even co-exist with Halloween ghosts and goblins for a while.
While it may seem too early to start thinking about the holidays, it’s not too soon to start your December budget planning. This three-month money management plan will help you share your holiday cheer with everyone on your list without breaking the bank.
How to Budget Money in October
Start by establishing your spending limit and budget:
- Set a holiday spending limit of no more than 1.5 percent of your annual income. This budget should include gifts and all the seasonal extras, including turkey dinners, decorations, postage and shipping, party apparel, and charitable donations.
- Avoid dipping into emergency funds or going into credit card debt for the holidays.
- Make a gift recipient list with a spending cap for each person.
- Open a separate account dedicated to your holiday needs. You can transfer money from your primary checking account on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
- Give up your daily pumpkin spice latte or bring your lunch from home to save as much as $300 from October to early December.
- Purchase airline tickets in advance for holiday travel. For domestic airfare rates, the optimal time to buy may be several months in advance of your trip. Check several sources and airlines for your best fare deals. Remember to consider luggage fees and other costs.
Money Management Tips for November
With your budget in place and your list in hand, you’re ready to make like Santa (minus the helpful elves and traffic-dodging sleigh). Now it’s time to create your shopping strategy:
- Before you spend a single cent, take inventory of what you already have on hand, including stockpiled gift bags and wrapping paper, as well as any gifts you may have bought ahead of time throughout the year.
- Don’t leave home without your list and spending limits. Consider bringing your spending limit in cash to avoid overspending.
- Keep an eye out for sales and coupons, and take advantage of free shipping and searchable discount promo codes for online purchases. You can find coupons and promo codes online using sites like coupons.com.
- Buy only must-have, high-demand toys at this time, as many drop in price in December.
- Do your research before you hit the stores if you’re looking for Black Friday deals. A bad product is a bad buy, so avoid simply opting for the option with the deepest discount.
How to Save Money in December
With the holidays just weeks away, now is the time to cash in on last-minute holiday deals:
- Purchase toys during the first two weeks of December. According to Dealnews.com, the season’s hottest toys typically drop in price during this period — as long as the stores still have some in stock.
- With the New Year approaching, now is the time to gather unused clothing and household goods, along with surplus holiday decorations, and donate them to charity. Come tax time, you can take a deduction for items donated by the end of the year. The IRS requires you to calculate the fair market value of donated items (Goodwill’s Value Guide) and obtain a receipt for all donations.
- Even after the gifts have been unwrapped, there are still good ways to save for next year. If you depleted your inventory of wrapping paper, tinsel, and curly ribbon, hit the clearance sales for discounts of up to 70 percent. Just be sure to stash it where you’ll be able to find it when the holidays roll around again next year.