November and December are some of the most special months of the year. They are filled with yummy food, seasonal beverages (hello, Starbucks’ Irish Cream Cold Brew!), nostalgic movies, cozy nights with friends and family, and lots of holiday cheer.
But if you’re anything like me, with all that joy also comes anxiety about being able to afford everything. Budgeting was a foreign language to me until I graduated from college five years ago and was thrust into the world of student loans.
Now that I’m on my fifth holiday season as a working adult(ish), I’ve picked up a thing or two that helps me make it out of the holidays with my wallet intact. Read on for three ways to prep your finances for the holiday season!
Every fall, I start compiling a list of everyone I’d like to buy gifts for. Friends, family members, colleagues, the kids I babysit… and so on. I create a rough outline of what I’m comfortable spending on each gift and jot down a few ideas for each person. This planning means I’m ready to strike once things go on sale for Black Friday – or even earlier, as many stores have started doing!
Once I have an idea of what I’m in the market for, I make sure to sign up for marketing emails from the websites I’d like to shop. That way, I’m informed and ready if they launch Black Friday deals early.
During the planning process, sometimes experiential gift ideas come to mind. These aren’t always more affordable, but to me, the value is higher so they can feel more “worth it.” And selfishly, it’s great when I can participate too. Last year, I got tickets for my brother and me to see a Broadway show. I spent a bit more than I would’ve on a normal present, but overall it felt more worthwhile than spending slightly less on a hoodie he might never wear. Something to consider!
Save little by little
Once my gift list and general budget have been established, I make a savings plan. Putting money aside bit by bit is super helpful because it means my bank account isn’t taking a massive hit in December.
I am an iPhone user, so I have an AppleCash account built into the wallet on my phone. I use my AppleCash account to store my holiday gift money, so it’s out of sight, out of mind. Another option is opening a separate savings or checking account for your holiday gift fund. This small step eliminates the temptation to spend the money on myself (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift merch store).
Cut back in other areas
Being honest with friends about where I’m at financially has proven to be helpful always, but especially during November and December. We’re all a little tight around the holidays, and more often than not, my friends are relieved that I said something! So if someone suggests something out of budget like dinner/drinks, I’ll offer to have them over to my apartment for dinner, or ask if we could do something low-cost like checking out a Christmas village in our city or getting coffee instead of drinks.
At the end of the day, the reason for the season is not about “stuff,” but it’s still nice to participate in gift-giving traditions and treat the people you care about. Hopefully these tips will make the experience as low-stress and budget-friendly as possible!