It’s easy to attribute holiday overspending to sheer generosity. In January, though, you might be kicking yourself for not holding onto that extra dough.
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It sounds obvious, but having a clear and strategic budget on paper for your Christmas shopping can really hold you accountable for what you plan to spend — and not exceed — this season. Here are some tips to stop overspending this holiday season.
Make a plan
It’s quite dangerous to walk into a store without a list. But when the holiday season rolls around, temptations lurk behind every aisle, window, and checkout.
Keep a list of people you want to buy a gift for, and keep track of potential gifts they’ve mentioned or things you’ve seen that would make good gifts for them. Ideally, you’d update this list throughout the year, but creating a list as soon as possible will help you narrow down your overbuying.
Once you have your list, have a number of what you would like to spend in total on all of your gifts this season, then allocate an individual dollar amount for each person – you could budget a larger amount for your parents or whatever. significant of you would do it for your favorite boss or bartender.
So, your list is your word. Match each person with a gift that is within their budget, and try to avoid additional gifts.
There’s no time like the holiday season to start cashing in those rewards you never use from your credit card. While there are already benefits built into your credit card, many personal credit cards also offer periodic cash rewards for purchases from certain retailers or brands. You might schedule your gifts from certain stores with available rewards.
Most of the time you will need to activate these rewards. Log in to your banking app and look for rewards or special offers available to you for the next month.
Group gift exchange
Do you feel some donor guilt about choosing which friends to buy this holiday season? Try coordinating a gift exchange like Secret Santa or White Elephant with your inner circle.
It’s a good idea to set a preferred budget for gifts so that everyone feels comfortable with the amount they’re spending and receiving. You can even host an event for the ultimate exchange. The excuse to get together during the busy holiday season could be another gift in itself.
One place you can get by without going on a super tight budget is the thrift store. Savings is an affordable and more environmentally friendly way to shop for totally unique gifts. When I’m looking for a smaller gift that’s a safe bet, I’ll grab a novelty mug from a thrift store’s extensive collection and slip a Starbucks gift card inside.
And with the low prices, you have a little more flexibility in what you can buy. You can walk into a thrift store without a complete idea of what to buy and be inspired by the collection—you may come across something so specific to your loved one’s interests that you can’t find anywhere else. This way used gifts can still have a personal touch.
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Call your artistic friends
If you have artists in your group, consider gifting a commissioned artwork this holiday season. You could commission a sketch of your gift’s favorite TV character, an artistic rope portrait of their pet, or color-coordinated jewelry.
Have a specific idea in mind as you approach your artist and talk about options, sizes, and fees. Then choose what works best for you. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying upfront, your gift will receive a one-of-a-kind creation, and you’ll be supporting a local artist or small business. Win-win-win!
Do not overdo it
While it’s tempting to add “the last little thing” to your loved one’s stocking, that frivolous spending can really add up. And as harsh as it sounds, those stocking stuffers just for fun can end up in the trash before New Year’s.
It’s the thought that counts when it comes to gifts, and showering someone with a bunch of presents definitely shows that you’ve been thinking about them. But all those little add-ons could mean as much as the one thoughtful gift you know they’ve been hoping for.
Trying to clip out the most extraneous gifts you would throw into your cart. Your wallet (and your nimble wraparound fingers) will thank you!
Throw a party
As fun as it is to throw a party, it can be stressful to host one. A great way to celebrate a loved one this holiday season without big singular purchases is to offer to throw a party for them.
If you have the space, offer to host and plan their next birthday party sometime in the next year. Help them pick a theme, get decorations from other friends, and manage RSVPs. You’ll also take the worst part of party planning out of their hands: cleaning!
A gift of service lets a loved one know that you want to be there for them, which could mean more to them than any store-bought gift.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How to Stop Overspending During the Holidays
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