Five Tips to Avoid Overspending This Holiday Season

Patricia Cutilletta, Morgan Stanley

The Holiday Poinsettia Show at Luthy Botanical Garden and Holiday Shop & Stroll at Forest Park Nature Center are just two of the events bringing joy to Peoria residents this holiday season. December is certainly an exciting and uplifting time of year, but the holidays can also be rather pricey. Between gifts, decorations, food and travel, there is no shortage of expenses. In fact, the National Retail Federation predicts the average consumer will spend about $967 during the holiday season.

It’s easy to get caught in the holiday hype and spend freely but once all the fanfare subsides in early January, the ability to start the New Year on the right financial foot is critically important. Here are a few strategies to ensure you don’t break the bank this holiday season:

Craft a budget
Establishing a detailed budget is one of the best ways to prevent overspending during the holidays. Start by estimating how much you will need to cover all holiday expenses and then set a total spending limit commensurate to your financial situation. Next, assign each category (i.e. gifts, decorations, entertainment) its own spending limit underneath the umbrella of your total budget. As you progress through the holiday season, adhere to that pre-determined holiday budget and use it as a guide. It may sound simple, but a carefully thought-out holiday budget can make a huge difference.

Start early
I recommend taking a proactive approach when it comes to holiday shopping. Waiting until the last minute generally results in a more stressful and trying shopping experience, increasing the chance of impulse purchases and, ultimately, overspending.

Those who start shopping late are also more likely to deviate from their holiday budget as there is too little time to be meticulous and selective. Additionally, by starting early, you may be able to find attractive deals on specific holiday gifts.

Shop in cash
While there are certainly perks to shopping with credit cards, using credit is a bit more conducive to overspending during the holiday season. The sheer number of holiday expenses makes it difficult to keep up and after a while, it’s easy to lose track of just how much you’ve spent. This can result in an unexpectedly large credit card bill come January.

To ease some of this uncertainty, consider holiday shopping only with cash. Utilizing cash can help you avoid overspending because once the cash is gone… it’s gone. Additionally, you won’t have to be as apprehensive upon receiving that January statement.

Don’t compare
In our society, there is a tendency to want what other people have. This December, avoid comparing your holiday festivities and traditions to those of others. Just because a neighbor purchases a certain gift for their child, or decorates their home in a certain way, does not mean you need to follow suit. When we compare ourselves to others, there might be a bit of added pressure to either overspend or spend beyond our means. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays.

Be creative
There are many ways to celebrate the holidays without spending much money at all. Instead of purchasing a gift for each member of your family, consider implementing a “Secret Santa” or family grab bag where each member of the family purchases a gift for one other person.

Additionally, make sure to take advantage of all the great low-cost community programming Peoria has to offer. The Park District alone has numerous exciting events occurring over the next month. It may not seem like much, but constantly eating out and trips to the theater can quickly result in a hefty holiday season tab.

You may not want to believe it, but the holidays will eventually come to an end. Being conscientious of your spending this December will help set the tone for a fiscally sound 2018. iBi

Patricia G Cutilletta is a Financial Advisor with the Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Chicago.

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