The countdown has begun. Days are getting shorter, to-do lists are getting longer, and lifelong memories are waiting to be made.
In December, Americans will:
- Buy more than 27 million (real) Christmas trees.
- Eat more than 22 million turkeys.
- Mail more than 17.9 billion cards, letters and packages.
- Spend more than $720 billion on gifts.
The holiday season can feel like a marathon — one that stretches your budget as well as your endurance. With a little planning and a few pro tips, however, you can finish the marathon with a pile of presents and a photo album full of happy memories instead of a mound of debt. Here are some resources to help you keep your spending, savings and to-do list on track during the holidays.
Shop like you mean it
Gift giving takes a lot of effort. First you make your list. Then you check it twice. Then you calculate how much it’s all going to cost before deciding your list could actually be a little shorter. But if paring down your gift list doesn’t jive with your desire to spread as much joy as possible, maybe what you need instead are strategies for saving on your holiday shopping. A few ideas for gift giving on a budget might also help.
Track your packages
Online shopping makes the holidays so much easier. Just browse, click and wait for the package to show up at your door. But what if they arrive when you’re not home? As more people shop online, the $100 billion in packages we expect to receive this month can be a tempting target for thieves. There are several ways to protect your holiday deliveries from the porch bandits this year – from having packages shipped to your workplace to leaving special instructions for the driver.
Shield your identity
Speaking of shopping online, it’s also important to watch out for cyber thieves. They may not steal the packages from your doorstep, but they may try to hack into your computer and run off with your credit card number or other personal data. These tips can help you stay safe while shopping online.
Recover in time to do it again next year
OK, so let’s say you do end up going a little overboard on the spending. It happens; all you need is a holiday recovery plan. This three-step guide will help you assess your post-holiday financial situation, pay off any lingering shopping debt and start saving for next year to prevent future mishaps.
Now that you’ve covered all your financial bases, you can sit back, relax and coast through the holidays. Well, maybe not coast exactly, but now you can enjoy the seasonal flurry knowing you’ve at least got your finances under control.