If you haven’t started already, now is the time to begin saving for your holiday spending. It’s also a good time to create a plan for your holiday expenditures. This year, your goal should be to control your holiday spending so you don’t waste a good portion of 2016 trying to pay off holiday expenses from 2015. Use the three-step system below to help you do just that.
Step 1: Start saving money today. If you start saving just $20 a week right now, you could have $160 by the time Black Friday rolls around. And you could have $240 by Christmas. If you save $30 a week, starting today, you can have $240 by Black Friday and $360 by Christmas. By reducing some of your normal spending just through the holiday months, you can save a substantial amount of money and avoid the use of credit cards altogether.
Step 2: Create a holiday spending budget. Your budget should include everything you need to spend money on—from gifts to food to travel expenses. It’s not uncommon to start out with an idealized budget featuring high-priced gifts and lots of travel. But once you see that all in writing, the reality of the expenses should encourage you to scale back wherever you can in order to actually make your holiday season affordable.
Step 3: Wait for sales. Once you have your budget done and you’ve started saving some money, you can begin strategically shopping for the gifts you need by watching for sales. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest sale days of the holiday season, but many stores run other sales throughout the final three months of the year.
The real point of the holidays is to spend time with those you love and take stock of your life—both of which are generally free. Refocus your concept of the holidays from spending money and buying presents and think more about the free and low-cost ways you can make your holidays meaningful.