The fall and winter holidays are almost here, and from festive decorating and special dinners to gift giving and fun-filled travel, there are lots of things to be excited about. Can you feel it in the air? For many of us, this is the most wonderful season of the year, but it can also be a stressful season when it comes to our bank accounts.
With these thoughts in mind, Chambers Bank has put together a few ideas to help you celebrate without going overboard on holiday spending. Who knows, by the end of December, your budget might just be shinier than all those holiday lights in the windows.
Review Your Existing Budget
The best way to determine how much you can spend for the holidays begins with reviewing your income and expenses. Gather your bank statements, monthly bills, and credit accounts together, or if you have a money management tool like Chambers Personal Finance, pull it up and take a look. Then ask yourself these questions:
- How much cash is available after paying my monthly bills?
- What unexpected bills could come up this fall and winter?
- How much is in my emergency fund, and is it enough to cover an unplanned expense?
Once you’ve reviewed your budget and answered these questions, decide if there’s anything you can cut out to free up more money for the holidays. Here are some variable expenses that are easy to eliminate:
- Streaming services
- Subscriptions (magazines, meal services, subscription boxes)
- Delivery services
- Club memberships
- Dining out and on-the-go coffees
Next, take an assessment of your holiday spending last year and consider whether the amount was too high or it seemed okay. If you put purchases on credit cards, are you still paying them off? Ideally, you don’t want to put this discretionary spending on credit cards, especially since most will charge you double-digit interest on outstanding balances that go past the usual billing cycle.
Build a Holiday Spending Plan
Now that you know how much cash you will have on hand, it’s time to put a spending plan together and categorize your holiday expenses according to type and purpose. You can create something on your own or use this Holiday Spending Plan to help you make a detailed list. Here are typical items you’ll see on a holiday budget:
- Meals and drinks
- Charitable donations
- Costumes and clothing
- Travel expenses
- Shipping and postage
Once your spending plan is complete, prioritize upcoming purchases and buy early whenever you can, so you’re not shopping last minute and falling victim to impulse buying or expedited shipping charges. Also, watch for pre-holiday sales on gifts, food, and decorations—and check on your credit cards to see if you can utilize bonus points or percentage-off deals from retailers who partner with your credit card companies. If you’re planning to shop online, make sure to do some internet searches for coupon codes offering deals and discounts.
Tip: You can use your Chambers Debit Card for all your seasonal shopping anywhere Mastercard® is accepted. It’s a secure way to make purchases without having to write checks or use cash. Then, when you add the SecurLOCK Equip app to help manage and monitor debit card use from your smartphone, you can set spending limits, view transactions, receive alerts, turn your card on or off, and much more!
Set Cash Aside for Holiday Purchases
Putting extra cash into your savings account on a regular basis can help you have enough for the holidays as well as help you establish long-term savings habits for other financial goals.
Try sending a planned amount from your paycheck to your savings account each pay cycle so you don’t see it and you aren’t tempted to spend. Even just $50 every two weeks beginning in October will yield $300 by the end of the year. Across a year, that $50 every two weeks gives you $1,300, which is more than the average American planned to spend on the 2021 holidays … $998 according to the National Retail Federation.
Tip: If you want to watch your savings more closely and you don’t have a money management tool, sign up for our free Chambers Bank Personal Finance tool, which puts all of your account information in one place and gives you insights on your spending so you can reach your savings goals. Personal Finance’s unique budgeting functions allow you to see your account information in a “bubble” format to help you visualize and interact with your budget categories in a more meaningful way. Go to Online Banking and sign up today!
Get Creative with Holiday Alternatives
Making the holidays special doesn’t have to involve lots of spending, and sometimes, the greatest gifts come from time with friends and family or volunteering in the community. If you’ve reviewed your budget and have decided you need to cut back (or you just want to make the season more simple), here are some alternatives that can bring you a lot of joy and make memories for years to come:
- Host a Potluck. Setting up a meal where everyone brings a dish to pass is an economical way to host a meal plus a fun way to discover new foods and recipes.
- Gift Your Experience. Have a DIY skill you can use to help take something off a friend or family member’s to-do list? Offer your time and knowledge as a gift this year.
- Volunteer Your Time. Giving to others feels great. Try substituting a family outing with a volunteer activity; you’ll save money and teach valuable lessons along the way too.
Wrapping Things Up
However you plan to celebrate the holiday season this year, Chambers Bank wants you to have an enjoyable and relaxing time getting prepared. If you have any questions about our Savings Accounts or getting started with Personal Finance, you can contact our Customer Care Center any time during regular business hours at 1-800-603-1226 or stop in at one of our branch locations.