Seasons savings: budgeting for the holidays

Ahhhh, the holidays. Those twinkling lights, the smell of fresh-baked cookies, a visit with your nearest and dearest, and – oh, yeah – spending money. With all the incoming warm fuzzies, it's easy to neglect the outgoing cash. Presents, decor, ingredients – it all adds up.

Turns out, the best thing to get yourself this holiday might be a budget. With a little planning, you can avoid the post-holiday money panic.

Make a plan

Like we said, it all adds up. While the holidays approach, think about what you typically spend more money on than usual this time of year. There's presents and decorations, cards and cookies. Are you buying a turkey? Giving to charity? Getting a gift for your secret Santa? Are you taking advantage of Black Friday deals? How about a visit to see the mall Santa?

With a budget, it's better to be realistic than remorseful. Translation: don't set yourself up for regret. Go ahead and make a holiday spending plan.

Fa la la la funds

Now that you have your list, it's time to figure out how you're going to pay for it.

Make sure you have your basic needs met first – groceries, rent, utilities, daycare costs, etc. Once you see what you have left, you can use cash to avoid overdraft fees or going over budget.

If you need a little extra to make the season bright, consider a small personal loan. A loan for holiday expenses can bolster your holiday budget. Plus, with regularly scheduled payments, you can pay it back easily – and boost your credit, too.

Keep track

Once it's time to spend, do yourself the favor of daily spending check-ins. Use a budgeting app to keep a daily log of what you’ve bought, what you have left to buy, and how much you have left in your budget. Checking in with your budget every day will keep you accountable and keep your budget in shape.

Stick to the list

Make a list, check it twice. Maybe even three times.

Write down everyone you're giving presents to and how much you'd like to spend on each of them. That way, you can tally up the total, choose an amount, and then focus on finding the perfect gift.

Get crafty

Are you an amateur resin artist, a cross-stitch savant, a repurposing master?

Put those crafting skills to good use by creating a one-of-a-kind gift that will save you money and mean so much more than another pair of socks (unless of course those socks were knit by hand).

Save, save, save

When gearing up for a season of heavier-than-usual spending, save money in the little things. Pack your lunches. Put that travel-mug to good use. Combine errands to save on gas. These are all great ways to save a few extra dollars and give you a little extra wiggle room in your holiday budget.

Once you get in the habit, you won’t even miss that $5 cup of coffee. Promise.

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