Tips to Stay on Budget this Holiday Season
saving-money | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Bob Juliano | Published: October 2023
The holiday season is already almost here! Which often brings with it a season of cheer, quality time with friends and loved ones, and of course, some added expenses.
A recent WSFS Bank Money Trends study found that nearly four in 10 regional residents (38%) are spending more money now compared to last year, and 37% are slashing non-essential expenditures due to rising interest rates.
While rising prices have made it more difficult to save, there are ways to help stay on budget this holiday season. Here are tips to help you check off the items on your list without breaking the bank.
Make Your List and Stick to It
A good way to get your list started is to review last year’s list as well as the purchases you made and total spent. Online and mobile banking can help make reviewing prior purchases quick and convenient as well as enable you to track this year’s spending as you go to avoid going over budget.
Outside of gifts, you also need to factor in added expenditures for holiday travel, food for your festive meals, decorations and more. According to the WSFS study, consumers are spending more on groceries (60%), transportation (53%), utilities (50%) and housing (43%) than last year, so it important to factor these into your budget.
Once you have your list, compare it to your available budget and pare things back as needed. Setting a maximum amount for each person can help keep you on target, and if you find your list exceeds your budget, you may need to reduce what you’re spending per person or even leave a few names off this year.
The sooner you have your list and budget set, the more time you have to hunt for deals. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the major sales each holiday season, starting early can allow you more time to look for better deals on other days as well. You’ll also want to factor in things like shipping costs and travel to store when deciding whether to purchase online or in-person to see which is the better bargain.
Use Credit Responsibly
The holidays can be a great time to utilize your credit cards, but it is vital to do so responsibly to avoid a financial hole. You’ll want to try to pay your credit card balance in full each month when possible to avoid accruing interest, particularly while rates are elevated.
Before making a purchase using credit or products like buy-now-pay-later, read the terms carefully and calculate what the true cost of the item will be if you pay it off over time to help you decide if the purchase is worth it.
Utilizing your debit card in place of your credit card is one method many consumers use to help them avoid overspending. If you find you’ve built up rewards with your credit cards, like cash back, now could also be a great opportunity to cash them in to cover some of your holiday expenses.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative
Another great place to look for a more personalized gift is to shop at your local small businesses, who often have holiday sales and may help you find something more unique for your friend or loved one.
If your budget is too tight to cover gifts for everyone you would like to give to, consider getting creative by making homemade gifts or scheduling quality time together that doesn’t come with a steep price tag, like a family volunteer outing to support your favorite nonprofit.
Elevated prices and interest rates can make sticking to a budget more difficult, but with the right planning and discipline, you can ensure you have a happy holiday season without stretching your wallet too thin.
About the Author – Robert Juliano
Bob Juliano is Vice President, Director of Corporate Giving & Financial Literacy at WSFS Bank. He is a financial education expert for the Bank and has taught K-12 financial literacy to thousands of children.
The study was conducted by research company Opinium. The sample includes 1,043 respondents in the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware region who reside in five southeastern Pennsylvania counties (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia), four southern New Jersey counties (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester), and all three Delaware counties (Kent, Sussex and New Castle). All respondents were ages 18-55. The online survey was conducted from August 10-17, 2023, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
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