The holiday season is many people’s favourite time of the year. But whilst it presents a welcome opportunity to reconnect with friends and family and spend time at home, the Christmas period is often an expensive one for shoppers. The cost of purchasing gifts for loved ones and colleagues can stack up quickly and really stretch your holiday budget, and that’s without even factoring in the additional expense of hosting parties and get-togethers, which is typically far from inconsiderable.
That can make it a particularly challenging time for millennial shoppers, who are in the early stages of their careers and independent adult lives, but still faced with many of the same expenses as the older generations. As a result, stress over how to afford to pay for the season of giving can colour what would otherwise be a happy holiday period. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways in which shoppers can prepare for the holidays to prevent it becoming too taxing on their wallets and minds.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best way to prepare for the holiday period is to start saving for it well-ahead of time. One way of doing this is to join a Christmas club. ‘Club’ is something of a misnomer in this case as they are, in effect, just low interest paying savings accounts into which automatic monthly payments are made throughout the year. That low rate of interest combined with the fact that money cannot be withdrawn from most until the Christmas-shopping period starts has led to a decline in popularity for Christmas Clubs since their height in the 1970’s.
But they remain a useful way for savers, especially those who do not possess massive self-restraint when it comes to their spending, to ensure they have enough in their holiday budget. And whilst the majority of banks no longer offer Christmas clubs, many credit unions have added Christmas clubs to their list of services. So for anyone looking for a fool-proof way to ensure the holiday period does not put too great a strain on their finances it is well-worth investigating Christmas clubs.
Taking advantage of sales is another key way to prepare your holiday-season budget. No longer restricted to the traditional ‘Black Friday’ after Thanksgiving, significant sales now occur through the year. For example, the online-retail giant Amazon extended its ‘Prime Day’ sale to a four day period earlier this summer in which significant discounts were available across a range of its products. And fortunately for shoppers, Amazon are not the only retailer offering such sales.
Indeed, competition amongst retailers for customers has led to a marked increase in the number of sales throughout the year. And as it is never too early to start thinking about your holiday-season shopping, don’t hesitate to take advantage of these sales all-year round. The key to doing just that is making sure you have a firm idea of when each one is. The date of Black Friday may be easy to remember, but for others such as Prime Day or Target and eBay’s big sales, some research ahead of time is well-advised. All the more so because different sorts of items, from technology to clothing to homeware, tend to go on sale at different times.
But sales aren’t the only way of saving on holiday gifts. The option to shop at vintage and thrift stores is one young shoppers would do well to take advantage of. Not only does this often help both the environment and charities, it provides the chance for customers to find real bargains. Admittedly, the best items are a little harder to find than they would be at traditional shops or online retailers, but that can be part of the joy of shopping at vintage stores. Besides, especially during the holiday season, it’s the thought that counts.
Speaking of which, spending money isn’t the only way to give a loved one a present that shows you care. Homemade gifts can often be just as appreciated. But only if they are well-crafted. A slapdash, last minute attempt is more than likely to offend its recipient. So if you do intend to go down the homemade route, ensure that you put real thought into what is achievable in the time available and within your skillset.
It is also worth-remembering that presents are not the only expense you will likely have to fund during the holiday period. Visits to see loved ones are a crucial part of what makes it such a special time of year, but if not prepared for, such trips, particularly if they involve interstate travel, can be a source of financial anxiety. The key to making travel as painless as possible is early preparation. The prices of accommodation and travel tickets will only increase as the date of departure nears. Booking far in advance, in contrast, can yield real savings.
Indeed, at the risk of stating the obvious, the key to preparing your budget for the holiday season is to do just that. Getting an early start on your preparations for the holiday season, both financial and otherwise, is the best way to avoid difficulties when December arrives. And so whilst it may sound obvious, it is also the best advice available.