You do not have to let the task of holiday shopping cause undue stress in your life. Even if your finances are tight or you are short on time to get it all done, setting a budget and sticking to it can go a long way in alleviating stress. As a bonus, you will come out of the season with your finances intact. Here are five tips to employ when setting a budget for gift shopping this year.
Make a List
Every reasonable gift budget starts with a solid list. Give yourself plenty of time to sit down with a pen and paper and write down every gift you need to give this season. It is a good idea to separate these into categories based on how much you plan to spend on each group. For example, your immediate family would be put in one group with co-workers in another category. Be sure to also include any charitable gifts or donations that you plan on doing this year.
Create a Realistic Budget
Once you have a list in front of you, you can then begin creating your budget. Because you already have them broken down into spending categories, it will be easier to assign a dollar amount to each person on your list. If you are on a strict budget, it might be better to determine how much you can afford to spend overall and then divvy out the money from there.
It is a good idea to build an extra 15% to pay for any miscellaneous costs such as shipping and gift wrap essentials. Savvy shoppers also know that they can save throughout the year so that they do not need to bear the financial burden at one time. For example, if you know you spend about $1,000 each year on holiday gifts, you can save approximately $100 per month. This amount will also provide you with the extra padding to know that you are covered.
Your budget does no good if you are not committed to tracking your spending. This exercise will keep you accountable for your planning. If you struggle with racking up credit card debt, it is recommended to only use cash. This will help you to avoid overspending because you are limited to a set amount of money. You can use the list you created early in the planning process and record the amount you spent on each gift to track the actual costs.
Consult with Family Members
If you are feeling stressed out about shopping for family members, there is a good chance that you are not the only one feeling this way. Before you go out and blow your budget on gifts for all of your family members, you should check with everyone to see how they feel about scaling back this year.
Perhaps you want to draw names so that everyone receives and gives just one gift? Or maybe you want to agree to give just one gift per family that everyone can enjoy? A white elephant gift exchange is also always a fun way to still enjoy the spirit of the season without breaking the bank. There are many ways to cut down on expenses while still ensuring that everyone walks away with something special.
Shopping the Sales
You can stretch your holiday spending to the max if you shop the sales. The best deals are no longer limited to just Black Friday. You can find sales on nearly everything leading up to the holidays. Another advantage of making your list early is that you will know what you need to purchase in advance. This will help you to shop the sales in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
When it comes to scoring the lowest prices, the internet should be your best friend. Rather than dealing with crowds and traffic, you can shop for the best deals online. This makes it significantly easier to compare prices and read reviews of the products to make an informed purchasing decision.
Do not let your generosity get the best of you. By having a plan in place for your holiday gift-giving, you will emerge in January with your finances in an excellent position to start the year.