Holidays, Presents, Parties, etc. – How to prevent Financial Overindulging during the holiday season.

Are you someone who plans out their holiday spending in November?  Maybe even has all of their holiday shopping completed by December 1st?  If so, I’m jealous.  Every year, I have the best intentions, and some years are better than others, but for the most part, I’m a 50/50 person when it comes to planning my holiday spending.  50% of the time I’m on budget and on track to complete my shopping before December 15th and the other 50% of the time, I’m overbudget, didn’t stick to what I planned to buy or left it too late and am now scrambling to find the perfect gift.  Which means that January, when the credit card bills come in, there is pain, but maybe not as much pain as there could have been. 

So here are some tips that have worked for me in the past and ones that seem like a great idea, but I have yet to be successful in implementing it 100%.

Gift Checklist:  Look at who is on you gift giving list and brainstorm ideas as to what sorts of gifts you’d like to buy for them and then start searching out the most reasonably priced options.  Then use that as a checklist and as a guide to stay focused.  This will help you save time and money.  It will help you cluster where you need to drive to pick up your gifts and will also help you figure out if someone has something on sale.  Also, I know that it is tempting to purchase things online from the Big guys, but check out your local retailers.  Chances are that they have similar prices and likely better customer service. 

This also helps to avoid the last minute panic about not finding something for someone that you had planned to give a gift to. 

Monthly Calendar:  Plot out the dates and times that you have available to spend trekking around the city to pick up gifts or to visit with Friends or to even do some baking.  Make sure you give yourself a generous amount of time to do these things too.  For instance, don’t assume that you can go shopping from 12-1; meet up with a friend from 1-2 and then be home to bake a couple dozen cookies between 2-4 and then have time to take the kids to their hockey practice at 4:30.  If you get ahead of schedule, great!  You can use that time to relax – but really, it’s the holidays, is there ever a time to relax? 

Sidenote:  I’ve been trying to use EverNote as my means to keep track of things this year.  It seems to be hitting around 75% this year.  So I figure it’s something that I can keep doing and improving on next year.  I know that Microsoft has templates for Calendars and a variety of holiday shopping spreadsheets that you can use. 

Purchasing gifts throughout the year: This is one of those that sounds like a great idea, and has been known to work on occasion, but I think that in order to be successful, you need to have a single spot to store these goodies and you need to have a list as to who you bought a particular gift for.  Where I’ve been unsuccessful with this is when I have multiple spots for storing the gifts since I’m trying to “hide them” and then I forget where that spot was.  And then I find the gift that I’m going to give, but I can’t remember who it is for. 

Buy in Bulk(?):  This isn’t to say to only buy one thing to give to everyone on your wish list (although I’m not saying that this is a bad idea either).  What I mean is that if you have a number of holiday parties to go to and you’re going to be purchasing a gift to give to the hosts of the party, perhaps buy multiples of this. Some retailers will give you a discount for purchasing multiples of one item. 

Pay with Cash/Debit Card:  Credit cards have their purpose and the majority of us have at least one.  But they can hide or mask your actual amount of spend each month.  The easiest way to avoid the “Oh Crap” feeling when you open your Credit Card statement in January is to pay with Cash.  Just make sure you keep your receipts in case you need to return something (Tip: Take a picture of the receipt with your camera).  If you pay with Cash, you have a limited amount of funds that you have to spend on gifts.  With your handy budget and calendar, one option would be to take out the funds that you need for that particular day and only use that to purchase the gifts on your list for that day. 

But just remember to enjoy the time with family and friends and if you have the opportunity to relax and recuperate from the stress of the year, take advantage of it.  You deserve it. 

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!

If you have your favourite tip that helps you minimize financial overindulging over the holidays, we’d love to hear your thoughts!