“Oh wow, look at all that. Did you finish all your christmas shopping today?”
“Well, define finish.”
“If you’re referring to myself, then yes, I think I might be done buying gifts for myself. As for everyone else on my list, well…”
One of the biggest reasons I don’t enjoy shopping is that I always get stuck in some store or another shopping for myself. Christmas is the worst possible time for this bad habit, as every window-ad and sparkling mid-mall kiosk is adorned with targeted marketing that seems to know exactly what I want.
And thus, shopping outings descend into a total self-serving nightmare. Plus, I have to go back to the mall later to actually buy presents for my family.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. The holidays are an easy excuse to let your budget run out of control, but it’s something you’ll regret big-time in 2016, especially when tax season rolls around.
Here are a few tips to keep your holiday spending in check.
Book Short Visits
Shopping is all about timing. For starters, I refuse to shop after the first week of December when the mall gets crazy. Second, I insist on shopping during non-peak hours - early afternoon, even early morning during the week.
But the real key to timing your excursions is to simply keep them short. If you limit yourself to an hour, then you’ll be forced to head in to the mall armed with a list and a gameplan for getting in and getting out. This way you won’t have time to spend extra money on things for yourself.
While I was in college, I was the typical starving student. I was living on my own, trying to hold down a job and keeping myself afloat in school. There was no way I could afford christmas, so I made the majority of my gifts.
The response was so overwhelming that I’ve kept up the habit ever since. These days people can buy pretty much anything they want, but it’s rare to receive a unique painting, sculpture or art project.
Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Even when your gift receiver asks “what were you thinking?”
Keep It In the Family
For Amy Fontinelle over at Investopedia, the holidays can add up. When we start buying gifts for people outside our immediate families, that’s where the real money is spent. It’s one thing to buy presents for brothers, sisters and parents, but when cousins, aunts, uncles and friends are mixed in, that’s a huge burden during a stressful time of year.
Focus on the closest people in your life. If you’re involved in Secret Santas or gift exchanges with people with whom you don’t share a house, consider capping your spending at something around ten or 15 dollars.
The last thing you should be worrying about during the holidays is your budget. It’s an expensive time, there’s no question, but it’s a short break from reality and a world that to which you’ll have to return in a couple weeks.
And it will be nice to have some spending money once the tree comes down.