The air is crisp and the leaves are changing colors in many parts of the United States, which means one thing: the holidays are right around the corner. Before we know it the stores will be decked out in red and green and holiday music will be on every station. And while many of us look forward to this time of year, our bank accounts certainly do not. So how and when should you start saving for the holidays?
Here’s our ultimate guide on saving for the holiday season.
When should I start saving for the holidays?
While some people say you should start saving for the holidays as soon as the last holiday season is over (i.e. save all year), for most of us that isn’t practical. Not only is it hard to think that far in advance, but there are a lot of expenses that pop up over the course of the year that take precedence over holiday shopping funds. It is more realistic to start saving about 3 months ahead of time. This gives you time to save money in a focused way.
What are the benefits of saving for the holidays?
The big benefit of saving for the holidays is that you will have more time to save and therefore can have more money when the time to shop comes around. But that’s not the only benefit of planning and saving ahead of time.
You can find the best deals.
When you start saving money early in a focused way, you can keep an eye out for deals. As the holidays get closer and closer retailers know that people will pay more and more money for things. But taking advantage of sales earlier in the season and avoiding the last minute rush of shopping will save you a lot of money (and a big headache to boot).
You can prevent overspending.
Consider this. You have most of your list checked off for holiday gifts, but one name still lingers on your list. As the days go on you get more and more desperate, eventually purchasing one (or a few) overpriced items even though you aren’t even sure if they are the right gift. Saving ahead of time with a list of people to shop for can help minimize the likelihood of this.
It’s good for your mental health.
It’s well known that the holidays are a hard time for many people. From the stress of money to the stress of family to the stress of jam-packed schedules, it can be overwhelming. But preparing ahead can help ensure you don’t deplete your bank account and add even more stress to your life. It will also help you avoid running around at the last minute so you can take a minute to relax and reset before jumping back into holiday festivities.
How can I prepare for the holidays?
Preparation is key when it comes to saving for anything, whether it’s a down payment, emergency fund stash, or a holiday savings fund. Here are some tips to set you up for success.
#1. Make a list of what gifts you need.
The first step to figuring how much you need to save is to figure out who you need to add to your gift list. Make a list of your usual recipients, everyone from your mom and dad to your cousin’s kid and your postal worker. Then look at every person and start brainstorming ideas. If you have a specific idea and you know the price of that gift, great! Jot it down. If you are unsure what to get a person, assign them a price range based on what you feel comfortable spending. This will help you get a pretty good idea of how much money you will need for gifts this year.
#2. Make a list of your other expenses.
We all know that gifts aren’t the only things that can take a toll on our wallet in the holiday season. Here are some questions to ask to determine what other expenses you may have to consider.
- Are you hosting dinner for any holiday? It could be Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years, or another gathering. If so, look at your guest list and see how much you will need for groceries, beverages, and other necessities such as plates and napkins.
- Are you traveling at all for the holidays? If the answer is yes, now is a good time to start booking your travel arrangements, or at the very least start getting an idea of the costs. Gas, airfare, hotels–everything adds up and should be included in your holiday budget.
- Are you sending Christmas cards this year? Account for how many cards and stamps you will need, and if you are having a family portrait taken for them you will need to consider the photography charge as well.
- Do you need to ship any gifts? Shipping can add up quickly so try to estimate how much you will need to send gifts to loved ones.
- Are you doing any holiday baking? This can be a great option for inexpensive gift-giving, but it still needs to be included in your budget. Be sure to include the packaging as well.
- Are there any other expenses that may pop up? Do you have holiday lights that need to be replaced? Do you get a fresh cut tree every year? Do you have a specific charity or organization you like to donate to? The more detailed and inclusive your list of expenses is the better prepared you will be when the bills start coming in.
#3. Total up your expenses and set a goal.
Once you have all of your expenses figured out it’s time to get a total and figure out how much you need. When you see the amount of money you need to save you can always go back and see what costs you can cut.
#4. Set up a savings spot.
There are a number of places where you can keep holiday savings set aside. You can keep it simple and keep a cash box at your home and manually keep track of how much you have saved. But it may be a better (and safer) idea to keep a separate account for your savings. There are many places where you can open a free savings account, and after the holidays are over you can deposit a little throughout the year to get a start on next year’s savings. There are some banks such as Ally that allow customers to organize their savings account into “buckets”. This means that you can have one savings account but separate your money and allocate it in different ways. Getting a high yield saving account will help you save more money without even lifting a finger, so be sure to shop around for the best interest rates.
#5. Start saving!
Once you have done all of the necessary preparation, it’s time to save. There are a number of changes you can make to help build your holiday fund.
- Redeem your cash back rewards and apply them to your holiday savings.
- Set up your direct deposit to send a percentage of your paycheck into your holiday savings account.
- Look at your regular budget and determine if there are changes you can make. Are there subscriptions you can cancel? Can you reduce your grocery bill with coupons? Any savings can go right into your holiday savings account.
- If you have time to take on a part time job it can help you earn a little more money and pad your savings a bit. There are a lot of flexible side hustles you can do such as driving for a rideshare or delivering groceries that can be helpful with managing added expenses.
#6. Shop smart.
When you start your holiday shopping, be sure to compare prices to avoid overspending when it’s not necessary. Consider getting a browser extension for online shopping. Extensions like PayPal Honey will automatically search the internet for coupons and promo codes so you can get the best deal possible. Other extensions can help you earn cash back, like Rakuten, while others search the internet for a better price, like Pricesout.
#7. Keep track of everything.
Try to keep track of all holiday expenses in a detailed way. Not only will this help you make sure you aren’t overspending, but it can help you when preparing for next year’s holiday savings. If there were some things you forgot in your initial planning stage, make a note to yourself so that you don’t forget it next year.
That’s how you can start saving money for the holidays.
The holidays are a stressful time, especially when money is tight. But a little preparation and planning can help reduce the stress and keep the holidays festive and joyful. If you are looking for another way to save some money, consider refinancing your car loan. You could be saving hundreds, if not thousands! Contact Auto Approve today to find out more and get your free quote today!