By Carol Kennedy
The holidays should be spent enjoying the company of loved ones, not stressing about credit card bills and going into debt. Creating and following a budget for the season is an effective way to monitor spending and avoid overextending your finances.
Here are some budgeting tips that could come in handy this holiday season and for planning for future holiday costs:
· Set spending limits. Whether you are buying gifts for a large family or shopping for a small household, set spending limits so you can accurately plan how much money you will be spending. If you stay within the limits, sticking to your budget shouldn’t be a problem.
· Make a list. Go shopping with at least three specific gifts in mind for each person you’re buying for. Trying to decide on a gift in the store often results in buying more than intended. Having a list will cut down on impulse buying and help you stay on track with your budget.
· Look out for deals. Online shopping is a gold mine for holiday deals. Be on the lookout for sales and free shipping offers. Many retailers will also send electronic coupons to their customers in addition to printed coupons.
· Exercise care with credit cards. Using credit cards is a great way to acquire reward points, but make sure you’ll be able to pay off the purchases after the holiday season is over. Are the reward points worth what you will have to spend in financing charges?
Checking your credit card balance online every couple of days and saving receipts will help you track your spending. You should also be checking your bank account balances to ensure that you will have enough money to pay the credit card bills.
· Start saving early for next year. It’s never too early to start putting money aside. If you save a small amount each month over the entire year, holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a financial burden. And the money you’ve saved for the holidays will create a starting point for your budget.
- Carol Kennedy is Senior Vice President and Retail Branch Manager of the 49th Street USAmeriBank office in Clearwater. She is a graduate of the Florida School of Banking at the University of Florida, and has volunteered at numerous area elementary schools supporting tutoring and mentoring programs.