Soon, you’re going to be flooded with blog posts about creating your holiday spending plan. But I want you to consider taking a different route this year. Instead of making a holiday spending plan, I want you to create an ANTI-spending plan.
Step 1: Look at what you spent last year.
Since the goal is to spend less this year than you did last year, you first need to get a realistic picture of what you spent last year. Pull out your bank and credit card statements from October through December and write down every expense that was related to the holidays. This includes extra money spent on groceries, food you brought to potlucks, secret Santa gifts, decorations and more. As you’re writing these expenses down, also make a note of the occasion that precipitated the expense, whether it was an impromptu family gathering, an annual party or an actual holiday event.
Step 2: Limit the opportunities for spending this year.
In writing down your expenses from last year, you also identified the events that caused you to spend money. In order to start trimming these costs this year, you can either skip some of these events and gatherings, or you can change how you attend them. For example, if you went to several different dinner parties last year and bought a bottle of wine for each one, this year choose fewer parties to attend. Or, if you threw a dinner party last year, this year throw a midafternoon brunch allowing you to spend less on the food you serve.
Step 3: Trim other costs.
Much of your holiday spending is probably focused on gift giving. As part of your anti-spending plan this holiday season, consider cutting that cost by 15 or 20 percent.
Holiday decor can take up a surprisingly large portion of the budget. This year, focus on decorating with stuff you already have or hitting up the thrift stores if you really need something new.
Step 4: Look for the free.
There are lots of free ways to enjoy all the holidays have to offer. A nighttime walk around your most decorated local park with a thermos of homemade hot chocolate, a free nighttime boat parade at the local beach, various community events sponsored by local churches and rec centers—the list goes on and on. Explore all of these options and take advantage of as many free things as possible.
If you plan NOT to spend much this holiday season, you can end the year with less debt, more savings and better self-control than you had last year.