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Making the Most of Your Holiday Budget

 Smart Holiday Spending Tips

In a season where spending beyond your means is almost expected, you may need to think about things differently in order to keep control of your family’s budget. Regardless of your plans, holiday spending shouldn’t derail your ability to save money and meet your financial goals. So here are a few simple tips to help you enjoy the season and all its cheer without going broke.

1. Utilize coupons and discounts

Sites like Groupon, Coupons.com and Krazy Coupon Lady can provide you with some great deals. They even offer mobile apps to use on the go. There are also browser extensions like Honey and Invisible Hand that automatically apply promo codes when you check out on retail shopping websites. If you’re shopping in a retail store, remember that many of them offer some sort of military discount, even if they don’t advertise it, so don’t be afraid to ask. Just make sure you have your military ID with you.

2. Use credit wisely when needed

Using credit responsibly is sometimes a good option, as long as you avoid the pitfalls that come with it. Making the minimum payments may seem affordable and convenient, but it can also trap you under a pile of debt if you’re not careful. For example, if you pay just the minimum on your cards each month:

  • $2,000 at 15% interest will take 8+ years to pay off with $847 in total interest
  • $4,000 at 15% interest will take 10+ years to pay off with $1,756 in total interest

In short, even a small purchase can turn into a big financial headache, with more than 40 percent of your payments going toward interest over the long run. If you need to use a credit card, use one with the lowest interest rate and longest grace period (the time between your purchase and when they begin charging interest), and try to pay off the balance in full each month.

Many retail stores also offer credit lines with no interest if paid in full within a certain timeframe. Using retail credit responsibly can help you build a positive credit history.

3. Consider a personal loan

A personal installment loan is a great alternative to a credit card. The advantage is that you always know what your monthly payment will be and when the loan will be paid in full. That makes it easier to work into your budget and stay on track. Paying back a loan on time can also help you build a positive credit profile.


SAVE SMART

There are several ways to spend almost no money on a present while still giving something memorable this holiday season.

4. Make something

Having your kids make something on behalf of the whole family is a time-honored tradition that’s almost always welcome. Homemade food is also a great option, especially around the holidays when many celebrations revolve around the dinner table.

5. Pool your money

If someone on your list wants something out of your price range, consider pooling money from several other people. This increases your purchasing power and everyone gets to contribute to a gift that you wouldn’t be able to afford on your own.

6. Do something special

You don’t always have to give a tangible item as a present. Offering to spend an afternoon at the movies with a sibling, a trip to the park with the kids, a night of babysitting for new parents, or helping around the house of an elderly family member can create memories no trinket can match.

All things considered, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make lasting memories. For more tips on how to brighten up your budget this holiday season, visit HolidaySpendingPlanner.org.

This story is presented by Pioneer Services, the military division of MidCountry Bank, which has provided award-winning financial education to the men and women of the Armed Forces for over 30 years.

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