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Prepare for the Holidays…Today

If you get paid twice per month, there are only 7 paydays left until Christmas! Last year, we shared some ways to prepare for holiday spending [1]. This year, I’m hoping to get started (and finished) even earlier. Here are 5 things I’m doing to smooth out holiday spending and usher in December with low stress levels.

5 Steps to Holiday Sanity

  1. Plan ahead: It may only be September, but you probably have a rough idea of your holiday plans. Know what you will need to spend money on between now and the end of the year. Include travel [2], gifts, and any parties you might be attending or hosting. Work up a rough budget [3] in your head, and start putting money aside if you haven’t already. Take stock of anything you already have at home that could help you avoid additional spending – maybe you bought something for your mom that you forgot to give her, or meant to return something for one child that can now be given to another child. Make a list of everything you plan to purchase, along with a general dollar amount for each item and/or person. If you know you want to buy a present for someone but don’t know what to purchase, listen for clues over the next several weeks.
  2. Comparison Shop: Get an idea of what your items should cost (this includes plane tickets and hotel rooms). Spend some time researching prices through at least 2-3 retailers, and make note of the cheapest prices as well as any applicable coupons or discounts. When you see something on your shopping list for a good price, buy it.
  3. Work the System: If you are shopping online, make sure you use coupon codes for extra discounts and free shipping. Use your cash back credit cards [4] to earn rewards while you shop. Use websites like Ebates [5] or Mr. Rebates [6] for additional cash back. And if you really want to get more bang for your buck, open SmartyPig [7] accounts that you then redeem [8] for gift cards with bonus savings up to 12%!
  4. Stay Organized: Designate one area of your house for pre-purchased gifts so that you know just where they are when it comes time to wrap. This can be a room, closet, or even corner. Mark items off of your list as you purchase them. And take regular stock of your spending so that you know how closely you are adhering to your budget and can adjust future spending plans if necessary.
  5. Stop when finished: The only downfall of shopping early is the chance that you could find “better” gifts as the holidays get closer and be tempted to spend additional money. Once you have purchased the items you wanted and/or exhausted your budget, just stop shopping. If you continue buying as the holidays approach, you’re defeating the purpose of shopping early! By completing your shopping ahead of schedule, you’ll avoid traffic and leave more time for things like wrapping, baking and spending time with your family.