Amid the merriment of the holiday season is a hard reality — nearly six in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to afford an unexpected expense like a $500 car repair or a $1,000 emergency room bill, according to a bank survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associations International.
While 83 percent of U.S. consumers are expected to spend $1,189 this holiday season, an amount equal to or more than they spent last year, there is no reason to enter the new year in bad financial standing if you do some smart planning and spend wisely. Here are some great ways to reduce your seasonal spending, without cutting back on the cheer.
- Know your limit. Figure out how much you can spend on gifts, decorations, etc. Divide the total amount into a per-gift limit. If it doesn’t add up, cut back the gift list or consider making a baked item or other homemade gift, or giving a gift certificate for a service you might provide, such as babysitting, car washing or house cleaning.
- Shop wisely. Watch for special sale days and coupons. Many online retail sites offer free shipping, discounts and other promotions during the holiday season. After the holidays, look for deep sales on wrapping paper and greeting cards to save for next year’s celebrations.
- Spend differently. New ways to pay for items can make the task of budgeting organized and straightforward. Check out specialty e-retailers like Purchasing Power, which is offered by many employers as a voluntary benefit, and gives workers an opportunity to shop for thousands of brand-name products they need now, for which they can make manageable payments over time through payroll deduction. With no credit checks, hidden fees or interest, it’s a service you may find gives you more flexibility over a traditionally expensive season.
“It’s not always possible to pay for big ticket items in full when you need them, whether you’re buying a tablet for your teenager for the holidays or a family vacation package next summer,” says Elizabeth Halkos, chief operating officer for Purchasing Power, LLC. “We created this solution to empower people to budget more wisely, and buy the things they need, while avoiding the penalty fees and ballooning interest associated with other payment options.”
Ask your employer if an employee purchase program and financial wellness benefit like PurchasingPower.com is available to your workforce.
Some additional cost-friendly options for the holidays:
- Suggest a family gift exchange. Spare the expense and frustration of trying to find gifts for each member of your extended family. Instead, pull names from a hat and find something special for just one person. For extra fun, play “Secret Santa,” keeping gift-giver identities concealed until the gift exchange.
- Spend time together. In lieu of gifts, bring everyone together over the holidays. Have a board game night or a day of service, such as serving meals at a shelter.
- Enjoy the season. There are many ways to celebrate spending little to no money. Curl up for a holiday movie marathon, bake cookies or look for free holiday concerts in your local area. Shopping malls and community centers typically offer a schedule of no-cost holiday entertainment.
For a better financial start in the new year, spend wisely this holiday season. Smart budgeting and new payment options can make it easy.