Author: Mary Elizabeth Loftus-Wood,
I was flipping through an old Kiplinger’s magazine and found a great article by Candice Lee Jones about how to stay on a budget this holiday season and skip the dissonance you feel when you get that credit card bill in January. Even though I heard that most consumers are tired of making budgets throughout this long recession and have made the conscious decision to spend anyways, there are those who are still staying within the budget regardless of how desperately they want to spend like we’re in a booming economy. I was interested to see the other side of the coin and go against my instincts and learn about a budget.
She said according to the National Retail Federation in 2008 the average holiday shopper spent more than $900 and 2/3 of those shoppers made those purchases on credit. Her advice is to spend the money you have and the money you’ve budgeted out for Holiday Spending and no more. But in order to accomplish this successfully you have to do some of the following things.
Make a budget - People who write a financial plan are more likely to succeed in their financial goals, so make a budget for your holiday spending! How much money do you currently have that you can spend on gifts, food, decorations, etc., Jones suggests some websites like www.mint.com that can help you make a budget and stick to it; letting you track your purchases and give you a realistic idea of what you have left to spend.
There are multiple smartphone apps that can help you with your budgeting. Here are some of the popular ones:
- Mint iPhone App (Download: )
- Don’t use a lot of credit – Just as you’ve budgeted out how much money you currently have, make sure you budget out how much credit you can use and when you’ll be able to pay it off. Using a thin line of credit for the holiday’s is the best solution. As always if you can avoid using credit for holiday purchases, DO IT! Remember, most tangible things you spend on (decoration, clothes, excessive food) is temporary, but your credit card bill will follow you. So be smart, spend more time with people you love because that is precious.
However, if you do end up using credit, you might want to try this app to track it:
iCredit Calculator - (Download:)
This app is quite simple. It lets you put in your current credit card debt and figure out how long it will take you to pay it off. Well, that should be a motivation to not go around spending without thinking twice.
- Trim the List - Kids don’t need 100′s of gifts and you don’t need to buy expensive gifts for your cousin you only see at Christmas. It sounds harsh but it’s necessary to place some value on your family members. Who needs what and how much are you willing to spend on each family member. A lot of families are moving to secret Santa Christmas’ in order to trim down the costs of the Holiday’s and there are plenty of websites online that help you facilitate the drawing and sending out lists. There are multiple options out there, but the essential ingredient is to realize that money is not growing on trees and if you have kids, help them prepare for the future by teaching them this important lesson.
(A few warm words of appreciation is more valuable them most things money can buy. So give it a try.)
While you trim your bill, here is an app to help you find the best prices for almost anything that you might have to buy:
Save Benjis – (Download:)
This app lets you compare prices for just about anything. You can figure out which merchant has the same item for less, and where it’s at. So when you are in the mall, about to buy something, check if this product is available somewhere else for cheaper.
- Use Technology To Save - There are numerous websites that compare prices and help you find the best deals in your area. There are even some retail stores that give incentives for purchasing off their online stores and others that let you redeem online coupons in store. If you can do the extra work it will be worth the cost you save.
(And, yes there is way too many apps that can help you find deals, get discounts or just compare prices and find the cheapest option)
Check this list of top 10 shopping app to compare prices by PCMag.com
- Think Outside the Box – Turn in some of your old clothing and electronics to second-hand stores that will give you money for extra holiday shopping. Others will let you trade in to trade up. Give the gift that keeps on giving and give a charitable donation that is tax-deductible for the next year or instead of your annual Christmas party visit a soup kitchen and give back to the community.
Regardless of how you decide to shop and spend, enjoy your Holiday’s because it’s the best time of the year!
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