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Money Moment: Holiday Shopping on a Budget

October 10, 2017 @ 5:57 am CDT

Mother and son wearing Halloween costumes

Dr. Jennifer Hunter

By Dr. Jennifer Hunter

Welcome back to The Money Moment Podcast episode 22 with your host, Dr. Jennifer Hunter.

It is hard to believe that it is already the time of year to start thinking about holiday shopping and a holiday budget. We are just barely out of the dog days of summer. However, to avoid the holiday crunch on your wallet at the end of the year, planning for holiday expenses throughout the year is important.

It is important to realize that Christmas is not the only expensive holiday in the next three months. Halloween ranks as the third most expensive holiday following Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This may be a surprise, since typically the holiday does not involve large gift giving or family events. There is no doubt that the Christmas holiday tends to be the biggest budget buster. Nonetheless, the prices of Halloween costumes, candy, and decorations do add up.

Preparing early for holiday expenses can reduce stress and your after-holiday bills regardless of the holiday that you are celebrating. Today we will discuss savings tips in detail for each of the upcoming fall and winter holidays, so that you can celebrate the season in style without playing a trick on your wallet.

Develop a specific budget for each of the upcoming holidays

Talk early with family members to determine their expectations for travel, food, and gift giving. As you develop your budget, determine which items are must–haves—such as a Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner—and which items would be nice to have if you have a few extra dollars. Developing a budget for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at the same, can help you stretch your finances over all three holidays and not overspend on one specific holiday.

You will also want to think about how you will pay for holiday shopping, you are less likely to overspend if you pay with cash rather than using credit. If you’re using cash, once all your money is gone, you’re finished with your holiday shopping. Many stores now offer layaway plans. If you use a store layaway option, be certain to check the fees, return policy, and keep track of all payments. Finally remember that holiday sales can be tempting, but once you’re in the store, stick to your original budget.

How to take the scare out of Halloween

PhotoSpin /Photospin

  • Shop local consignment or thrift stores for costumes. Call and ask if they have special costume Also, consider selling some of your children’s customer from previous years. Often consignment stores will offer buying discounts to their sellers.
  • Be creative search your closets, as well as grandma’s, for items that you can turn in to a costume.
  • Do an internet search for easy DIY or do-it-yourself halloween costume.
  • Search local ads for Halloween candy specials. Try not to buy too much. Purchasing too much candy adds extra cost and you will be tempted to eat the left-overs.
  • If you can, buy small amounts of candy at a time, which spreads the expense over several weeks. However, you may want to hide the candy at home to make certain that it lasts until the trick-or-treat.
  • If you wish to use candy alternatives, pencils, erasers, raisins, pretzels, dried fruits and cereal bars are healthier options.

Tips to have a Thrifty Thanksgiving

  • Give both you and your wallet a break. Instead of preparing Thanksgiving dinner with all the side dishes, plan a Thanksgiving potluck. You can provide the turkey and ask friends and family to bring a side dish or a dessert. Not only does this spread around the cost, it also spreads around the work.
  • If finances are tight, reduce travel expenses by only visiting family on one holiday, either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Enjoy the other holiday with your family and friends who lived nearby. This is also a great way to allow your family at home to develop their own holiday traditions.
  • Plan your holiday meals ahead of time.
  • Shop grocery deals and look for coupons.
  • Look for in season produce, such as sweet potatoes and fall squash.

Ways to beat the Christmas Blues

  • Talk to family and friends about setting new holiday traditions. Instead of traditional gift giving, consider a gift of exchange, where you buy a gift for one person in the group instead of everyone.
  • In many families, people enjoy spending time together more than they do the actual gifts received. This is especially true with older or adult children. Consider a nice dinner out where each person pays for their own meal. Play games, take a family walk or find an activity that would interest all the family members.
  • Make a list of all family and friends for whom you normally purchase a gift and talk with them about setting spending limits on gifts. If you do this and you decide a specific spending limit per family member, remember to stick to the agreement that you made with the other family members. You do not want to show up with a gift that is too expensive compared to the other gifts that the family members have brought.
  • If you do not set spending limits within your family, before heading to the store, you personally need to decide how much you are willing to spend on each person. Make a list of potential gift ideas and be certain to stick to that list once you arrive at the store.

The holidays can be both an expensive and stressful time of the year. Planning for your holiday budget can help reduce both the amount of money you spend as well as the stress that you experience.

Please join us for the next podcast episode where we will address the topic of the “Price of Convenience”.


October 10, 2017
5:57 am CDT
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