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Finance 101

Last-Minute Budgeting Tips for the Holidays

Posted on October 28, 2019 by Jake Ward, CMSE – VP of Marketing

Visa Special

Holiday budgeting. We all say we’re going to do it around July. Then October rolls around and – uh oh. That holiday savings account didn’t happen. 

The National Retail Federation reports that the average consumer spends around $1,000 during the holiday season.  Festive food, decorations and of course, gifts, make the holidays jolly.  But if you’re not financially ready, November and December – and the bills in January – can make the holidays a headache. 

So how do you keep your spirits bright if you’re late to the planning process? Set some guidelines for yourself right now, and take a realistic assessment of your budget.

#1 Make your gift list – ASAP! Who do you need to buy for and what’s your bottom line limit? Establish it and stick to it. Make gifts more meaningful than elaborate -- consider something homemade, or a fun experience for the person that won’t break the budget.  Some families make the decision to just buy for the kids.

#2 Prioritize. Sure, we want to say yes to every party, potluck and event we’re invited to. But is it always financially feasible? Ask yourself if you’d rather splurge on party clothes and cocktails, or if you’d rather buy those new decorations for the house.  

#3 Shop sales.  Seems like a no-brainer, right? If you’ve never really paid attention to Black Friday or Cyber Monday, now’s the time. Thanksgiving week (and even post-dinner on the day) is a great time to find deals if you’re willing to brave the crowds. If not, put in some serious screen time and shop the Monday after – this year Cyber Monday is December 2nd.  If you’re late with travel planning, Cyber Monday and the following day, “Travel Tuesday”, have developed a reputation for cut-rate prices on flights, cruises, resorts and vacation packages.

  • Some monthly buying tips -- November is the month to buy TVs, smart home devices, tablets, computers and smart watches. It’s also a good time to check out high-end beauty products and box sets.
  • And believe it or not, Santa shopping in December is not a bad idea after all! Toys go on sale most of the month because retailers don’t want Christmas leftovers. After Santa’s big day through January 1st is the time to stock up on next year’s wrapping paper and decorations, so leave a little bit in your budget to ease the pain for next year!

#4 Low interest credit cards and loans. Getting a low-rate holiday loan or credit card (and using them responsibly!) is another way to assist with holiday spending and improve your credit. Beginning November 1st, R.I.A. FCU will offer a holiday Visa card at 2.9%, with no balance transfer fee; as well as a holiday loan program for up to $5,000 that’s payable over 12 months with rates as low as 4.49%.  Lower interest will make you feel much merrier in the long run!

#5 Open a holiday savings account – in February. Give yourself a month to recover if you need to, then open a holiday savings account for the new year.  At R.I.A. FCU, you can open a holiday savings account any time during the year, but you can only access the money from October 1st through December 31st.  Even better, you can set up a payroll deduction to automatically set aside your goal amount. The money you’ll have for next Christmas is guaranteed to put a jingle in your step.