How many years have you promised yourself you’ll stick to a certain amount of money for Christmas spending, and yet year after year, you open up that credit card statement to complete and utter shock?
After all, you just didn’t realize you had actually spent that much.
Don’t worry, it happens to even the most financially savvy among us.
In fact, I started a holiday saving fund where $50 from every paycheck would go to a savings account designated specifically for the month of December. Even then, I still managed to overspend by a few hundred dollars.
If you’re feeling the sting from all that holiday spending and you’re starting to fear, rather than look forward to, the new year, follow these tips on how you can recover from a busted holiday budget.
Return, Return, Return
It’s not Christmas yes, meaning you still have time to return presents that may fall into the “extravagant” category.
A lot of times, people will feel pressure to spend more than they had budgeted, especially when they are shopping in malls. You’re surrounded by consumerism, and it’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit.
But when you get home and you start to come to your senses, you realize that your children really don’t need $500 worth of new toys when they barely play with the ones they have. So go ahead and return that extravagant gift for Aunt Lucy, and choose two smaller, more sensible presents instead. You’ll also be able to cover more people on your gift list.
How many of us have those gift cards lying around that we’ve never used? Perhaps they were company gifts or “I don’t really know you that well but everybody loves Starbucks” gifts. Whatever the reason, it’s time to put them to good use by re-gifting.
That’s right. Use them as stocking stuffers or for that Secret Santa or White Elephant party where it’s mandatory to bring a gift.
Cut Back in Other Areas
Between the gifts, the parties, the decorations, and all those random treat-yourself-because-it’s-Christmas purchases, you’ve found yourself with a busted holiday budget.
If there’s nothing you can do to return gifts or re-gift, then it’s time to start scaling back your budget in other ways. Limit the invitations you accept to holiday parties to only the few that you really want to attend. Vow to re-use your decorations next year. Say no to those holiday lunches and pack your own lunch.
Limit your own dining out and grocery shopping—in fact, attempt to get by with simply what’s in your pantry and fridge. The holidays tend to bring lots of food from work and gatherings so use those events to go overboard, while keeping lean at home.
Prepare for Next Year
When all else fails, remember this feeling of utter financial chaos and vow to do better next year. Prepare by starting a holiday budget and setting aside money from every paycheck.
Start whittling down your gift list (do you really need to get a gift for your pre-school best friend?), and suggest to your family that you all save money next year by doing a gift exchange rather than buying for everyone.