Monthly Tip: Trimming Your Holiday Expenses
The holiday shopping season officially starts on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with some stores opening their doors as early as midnight. Unfortunately, as holiday spirits rise, credit card debt tends to soar.
To avoid the post-holiday blues when you open your credit card statement, keep these simple tips in mind:
Make a list and check it twice. Before you start spending, list all your holiday expenses by category. You might break down your list into categories such as gifts, wrapping paper, and shipping supplies; cards and photos; meals and entertaining; decorations; travel expenses; and charitable donations.
Be budget-savvy. We all like to treat family and friends during the holidays, but you don't need to max out your budget to spread good cheer. Take a close look at your monthly finances and determine how much you can set aside for each category on your list. Setting limits ahead of time may help you avoid impulse purchases.
Hunt for deals. The Internet is a great place to comparison shop for holiday bargains; you may even find discounts not available in stores. (Try checking sites like RetailMeNot.com for online coupon codes.) And don't forget, "There's an app for that!" With smartphone shopping apps, you can scan an item and search for the best price within a certain area. If you find a lower price, ask stores if they will match it.
Stay on top of your expenditures. To keep your spending under control, track all of your purchases as you go, and review your budget periodically for a reality check. If necessary, revisit your list and rethink items you originally designated as "must haves."
These tips might sound basic, but in the rush of holiday preparations, they're easy to forget. And who knows? By being diligent, you may end the holidays with extra money to invest in your 401(k) or put toward paying down your mortgage.