’Tis nearly the season to get in the spirit of spending more money than you normally do (or perhaps your season has already begun).
The National Retail Federation reports holiday spending has steadily increased each of the past seven years, a trend that’s projected to continue this year. But that doesn’t mean you have to ride the shopping wave.
Here are a few tips for keeping spending in check or stretching your budget during the holidays:
Start planning now—for before and after the season
Add up your regular monthly expenses (groceries, rent, Netflix, etc.) and subtract from your income (after taxes) to determine your per-month discretionary money. Then figure out how much you plan to spend on gifts and work backward. Will you have to set aside your discretionary funds for one month? Three months?
If you’re going to use a credit card for your purchases, have a plan to pay back the debt in a timely manner to minimize interest charges.
Pay with cash
Try leaving your checkbook and cards at home. NerdWallet offers up several tips on how to build a cushion for the holiday season. Dig through your office drawers for unused gift cards and trade them in—Cardpool kiosks offer instant cash for cards valued at $20 or more, and there are many other online gift card exchanges out there, as well.
Another way to put extra cash in your pocket is by taking advantage of SELCO’s Skip Payment option. To request a skip payment on an eligible SELCO loan or line of credit, log in to online banking at selco.org and select “Request Skip Payment” under the Services drop-down menu.
Value vs. cost
Say you plan to spend $40 on headphones for the audiophile on your shopping list. After reading reviews and visiting a few shopping websites, you find a $40 pair at 50% off. There’s no need to find $20 more in gifts for that person—the headphones are still valued at $40. It just happened to be your lucky day, and you got them for half that. Take the money you saved and spend it on the next person on your list.
Set yourself up for the best deal
As much of a danger the internet can be to your wallet, it can also be your friend. By price-checking and setting up online price alerts for the items on your list, you can potentially save a lot of money and time spent shopping online and at the store. Popular price-alert sites include Wikibuy and the aptly-named OnlinePriceAlert. But don’t forget to unsubscribe to the alerts in January so you aren’t tempted to keep spending.
Finally, as if tracking your own spending wasn’t enough, you’ll also want to make sure someone isn’t spending your money for you. From mobile malice to fake charities, scammers step up their game during the holiday season, and the importance of protecting your personal information becomes magnified. Before you start checking off your list, check out Popular Holiday Scams (And How to Avoid Them).
Your email provider’s spam filter will reel in a good portion of these phishing scams. For the ones that get through to your inbox, ignore them—don’t reply, click embedded links, or open attachments. If you suspect an email is from a scammer, delete it and add the domain and email address to your spam filter to prevent a recurrence.