Once again the holiday season is rapidly approaching. You can feel it in the air, and certainly in the wallet. The economy has not recovered yet, and many of us are still struggling with tight budget constraints as we move into the “season of giving”. While many may go further in debt to cover these expenses, there are a few ways we can make it a bit less painful. Check out these tips for squeezing the most out of your holiday budget:
1) Adjust your W4: If you usually get money back from Uncle Sam after filing your taxes, a great way to get a little more in your paycheck this time of year, is to adjust your withholding. Use the PaycheckCity Calculators to run different scenarios and see how many exemptions will work - giving you more money in each paycheck NOW, instead of a big check in April. One word of caution, remember to change your W4 back to the usual amount of exemptions in January, or you might owe money next year.
2) Are you disciplined enough to have your holiday gift money saved up and set aside before the shopping begins? Good for you! If you really want to squeeze a few extra dollars out of your holiday spending budget, make all your gift purchases with a credit card that pays you cash back. When you get the bill, be sure to pay it in full with the gift money you had set aside. You will make money back on what you spent, and paying off the bill in full with the money you saved means no interest fees. It’s like getting a free loan, with some spending money returned to boot!
3) Be an educated consumer. Have a plan, make a list, budget, check the sales, use coupons. The more you do your homework, and keep an eye on your limits, the better you will do. Don’t get sucked into advertising hype - marketers and retailers work hard to get you to buy, so try not to get too distracted by slick advertising.
4) Consider shopping in thrift stores. There are often many items that are brand new, or gently used, and at great prices. In addition, many of these types of stores benefit non-profits that help people or animals, so you will be contributing to some great organizations at a time of year when they really need it. It’s almost like doubling your gift giving dollars.
Finally, remember that the most important thing is to focus on family, friends and fun. Do you remember every gift you got two years ago? What did you get when you were eight years old? Most of us don’t remember what we got unless it was something really special, so why focus on that when you have family and friends to enjoy holiday time with. What brings a smile to your face? Who do you feel really great spending time with? This is what the holiday season is really all about.