Keep Your Finances Festive

While your kids anxiously count down the sleeps until the man with the bag makes his annual delivery, you typically anticipate the big day with barely concealed anxiety. The holidays are an expensive time of year that puts pressure on your budget, and the knowledge that you could bust it with every new present under the tree weighs heavily on your mind.

Even knowing this might happen doesn’t necessarily stop you from overspending. It’s hard to rein it in when the holidays are on the line. You have children to spoil, guests to entertain, family to put up, and gigantic feasts to serve. Someone has to pay for it all, and Santa’s in the wind.

By the time the gift-giving season is over, the average American is looking to borrow money from direct lenders. That’s because they typically drop roughly $900 on gifts around this time of year, leaving them ill-prepared to take on any financial emergencies without a little help in the New Year. The true cost of the holidays is actually much higher, as this estimate doesn’t even include the cash we intend to spend on travel or entertaining.

If you expect to spend just as much or more on this holiday, your budget could do with some strengthening. If you catch it early enough, you can siphon excess cash away from unnecessary purchases and devote it to your holiday fund. Target little things like the family’s regular take-out Friday nights or your daily latte from Starbucks.

It’s never too early to start saving. In fact, it’s better if you consider tweaking your budget as early as possible to help mitigate the impact it has on your day-to-day finances. Some people even plan the holidays into their budget as soon as January! This may be an impossible goal for this year, but it’s a plan worth considering for 2018.

For the rest of us who forget about the holidays until they’re right underfoot, shopping carefully is another way you can limit the collateral damage of the season. It may be too late to take advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t snag some impressive deals.
When it comes to unearthing special discounts and sales after these big shopping days, the Internet is your friend. From websites like Groupon to apps like Ibotta, there’s a way of pinching a few pennies this season. It’s all about what works for your shopping style. If don’t mind putting in a little extra work before committing to a purchase, then Ibotta’s rebate-based app may be your best money-saving tool. If you don’t have the time to wait for these rebates, then the direct deals of Groupon may work better.

You can pack your Android or iPhone with apps that help you keep track of your finances. Apps like Mint, Wally, or Level Money can help you develop a holiday-sized budget that prevents you from dipping into essential savings meant for emergencies. All three of these options are free on the App or Play Stores, so you don’t spend money to save it.

So take a deep breath. You might not look forward to the holidays with the same childlike glee as your youngest, but you can still enjoy the season. Budget properly, use sales to your advantage, and rely on apps to help manage your money. These strategies can help you tackle the festivities, even if your advent calendar turns out to reveal bills in place of chocolate.

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