Now is the perfect time to set holiday budget

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

There’s no avoiding it, the holidays are fast approaching. Now is the time to establish your holiday spending budget so that you can enjoy the good times and cheer without the money stress that often accompanies this time of year. Here are some tips for saving money during the holidays:

• First, write it out. Take 10 minutes and write down every person you’ll need to gift. Don’t forget teachers, office gift exchange, etc. Have a meeting about holiday expenses with a spouse, significant other or anyone with whom you expect to buy gifts for this year. Then, create a holiday shopping budget. It may not be fun, but knowing in advance how much you can spend will eliminate a lot of stress.

• Not just gifts. It’s not just gift buying that causes the spike in spending. Make the holiday budget all-inclusive: Account for travel, decorations, charitable donations, gifts and holiday cards for everyone on the list, wrapping paper and stamps, food and drinks for parties and during shopping excursions, and whatever else requires a cash outlay during the holiday season. Remember to not budget for more money than you have or know you can save by the deadline.

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• Assign dollar amounts. You should already know how much in total you can afford to spend on holiday expenses. And while you may not know exactly what you’ll purchase yet, divvy up that total number among the various people/events/needs.

• Plan and make a list of the gifts you want to buy. Comparison shop on prices, and make sure that the items on the list are within the budget.

• Shop for only what is on the list. Refuse the temptation to buy other products once in the store. While that may seem like common sense, it will serve holiday shoppers well to stick to it. Retailers are experts at getting consumers to open their wallets, especially for those last-minute impulse purchases before hitting the checkout line. Stores use many tactics to tempt consumers to buy more. Shoppers should not buy when they see a bargain but should stick to what is on the list.

• Keep a watchful eye on sales. It may seem obvious, but store circulars are a great source for holiday bargains. Cross-referencing sales and deals between store circulars is critical. offers price alert e-mails to help you know where to shop.

• Shop online for savings where there are no crowds, deals found at a click, free shipping, and so on. However, it is not only about buying. The Internet allows consumers to comparison shop without having to visit the stores, which is a great way to save time and stretch the budget.

• There are countless sites that can help with finding the best deal: including,,, and maintains a list of sites with free shipping policies and coupon codes for more than 500 online stores. Shoppers might want to subscribe to e-newsletters at some favorite brands’ websites. That way, they can take advantage of coupons and discount offers.

•Get to know store policies. It pays to shop at stores that match competitors’ advertised prices and offer price adjustments. If the sale item is marked down within a certain timeframe, consumers might be able to get a better price.

• Plot out your spending. Schedule your holiday meal grocery shopping trip into your calendar right now. Same for gift shopping and other errands. It will be easier to stick to the limits you set if you know ahead of time when you’ll be spending the money. The last minute, emergency trips to the mall or supermarket are often what derail your budget. Planning ahead can help negate that, while ensuring you don’t over-schedule yourself

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your budget for this holiday season. Planning ahead, sticking to the budget and putting effort into shopping for the best deals will pay off in the long run. Source: Ruth Brock, Certified Personal Finance REA.