How to (Actually) Stop Overspending on Christmas Presents

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how to actually stop overspending on christmas presents

Here are the 5 steps you need to take to stop yourself from overspending on Christmas gifts

The excitement, the gingerbread latte is now kicking in … the click-clack of your shoes racing down Target’s floor tiles… as you frantically snatch the must-have toy of the season off the shelf, clutching it possessively to your chest!  

VICTORY!

As you round the corner trying to get back to the main aisle, you can’t believe your eyes; you haven’t seen this Magnolia item in stock in FOREVER! In your shopping cart it goes! Off to checkout, and you slooooow way down going by the girl’s section, and think, “That’s super cute! My little one would love that!” It too goes in the cart!

An hour later, and your phone bings at you. Yup, it’s a large purchase amount alert from your credit card. It reads, “Did you spend $358.42 at Target? This amount is over your alert limit notification settings”.

And just like in The Christmas Story, you say (in slow motion for dramatic effect) “Oh FUDGE!”

You totally overspent! Again! You told yourself you weren’t going to overspend on Christmas presents again! (like ever!) Last year’s holiday credit card bill left you with hives, and you promised yourself that this next year would be different!

Well, guess what, that Target scenario up above… it was just a dream. Just like Ebenezer, there is time for you to change your ways. You’re not doomed to follow the same path you did last year! So if you’re ready, let’s dive into how to stop overspending at Christmas!

how to stop overspending on christmas presents

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What is the Christmas Debt Hangover?

Ugh! No one likes a hangover! But unlike a hangover from too much bubbly, a Christmas debt hangover can last months and months (sometimes years)! No thanks!

According to a MagnifyMoney survey, “Americans took on an average of $1,325 of holiday debt in 2019”. Here’s how their numbers played out…

  • 44% of consumers took on debt this holiday season, and the majority (57%) didn’t plan on doing so.
  • 78% of those with holiday debt won’t be able to pay it off come January, including 15% who are only making minimum payments.
  • 58% of indebted consumers are stressed about their holiday debt.
  • 40% plan to consolidate debt and/or shop around for a good balance transfer interest rate, but more than half won’t even try. Of those that won’t try, 20% think it’s not necessary, and 18% don’t want to deal with another bank.

Now specifically regarding how long it would take them to pay off the debt, survey responders said…

  • 22% said one month
  • 21% said two months
  • 19% said three months
  • 8% said four months
  • 16% said 5+ months
  • 15% are paying only minimum payments

Right now, The Fed Reserve lists the average credit card interest rate to be 14.52%. You can generally assume that your minimum payment will be about 2% of your total bill. Here’s a screenshot of how long it would take to pay off the card (if you didn’t put any more purchases on it).

magnify money debt calculator
using Magnify Money’s credit card debt calculator

64 months? Paying $582 in interest? W.T.F.!

Are you ready to tame your shopping spree beast? Because, after looking at those numbers, overspending at Christmas is not cool!

How to stop overspending on Christmas presents: Step One – decide what you will focus on besides the gifts!

It’s just smart sense that when you take something away, you need to replace it with something else. Instead of a donut, have a whole grain muffin!  

So instead of focusing on gifts, what do you want to spend the season focused on? I’ve got a great list of frugal family fun ideas for the holidays!  These are bucket list items perfect for the holiday season!

You’re especially going to need something fun to do Christmas morning, as you don’t want the day to be anticlimactic without all the presents, as it might be hard on our littlest ones. Think about…

  • Doing a Meals on Wheels delivery route in your neighborhood.
  • Go caroling.
  • Do a Christmas movie marathon (pj’s required!).
  • Make a full holiday meal together as a family.
  • Go sledding/skiing/ice skating or go to the mountains for snow time fun! Don’t forget the hot cocoa and accessories for the snowman you’ll build!

Step Two – Consider a gifting strategy

Every good General knows that you need a plan of attack or a strategy, shall we say. And if you don’t think Christmas shopping is kind of like preparing for battle, then hats off to your peaceful and serene holidays of the past. The rest of us battle-weary moms can barely nod in agreement (as we’re still a little shell shocked from last year’s holiday season).

Strategy One – Adopt the 4 Gift Rule

This one is amazing in its simplicity to help you stop overspending on Christmas gifts! It caters to those toying with the idea of having a minimalist(ish) holiday, and it’s gaining popularity every year! You gift each recipient (that you would typically buy lots for) just four gifts.

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something they need
  4. Something they want

I’d like to think of it as a way to buy a more meaningful selection of gifts. As you’re looking not just to buy lots of things, but purchase specific items. Hopefully, the receivers will appreciate their gifts a little more and not get lost in the craze of ripping off wrapping paper at the speed of light.

Don’t forget to snag your printable gift list tracker; there’s a four gift rule one and then a classic gift list printable. Everything you need to stay organized and on budget!

christmas gifting list

Strategy Two – Give the gift of an experience

Maybe your kids have everything that they need! Maybe you are dreading anything more coming into your home as you need to get your Home Edit on right now!

If that’s the case, then consider giving an experience instead. This could be a short trip to the beach or a big trip to Walt Disney World. Or tickets to a sporting game or an event like Comic-Con. Go as big or as small as you like. Set aside the Christmas money and put it in a sinking fund to make this experience come true (even if it’s at a later date).

Hint: if it’s a trip to a theme park, some have vacation planning DVDs or online videos (DisneyWorld does). This would be a great thing to wrap and put under the tree!

Strategy Three – Go the D.I.Y. route

Now, this isn’t for those of us that are all thumbs (meeee!) I am not a crafter/knitter/artist/DIYer by nature. But for those of you that are, consider harnessing your talent for homemade gifts!

Even if you don’t have a talent, maybe consider gifting a custom photo book from Shutterfly. Or collect great grandmothers family recipes together and turn them into a little book (or place her most famous recipe on a tea towel! Cute huh!)

That’s right, as your mother always said, it pays to plan ahead! That means getting your Christmas present shopping done early! As the holiday gets closer, we tend to panic slightly; we grab just about anything that will do as a good gift. Most of the time that means we’re spending a little more (because we don’t want to get a cheapo lame gift)!

So start jotting down your gift choices now! Aka ASAP! I.e., immediately!

Okay, you get the drift. Besides, online ordering gets bigger every year, and sometimes there are shipping delays or snowstorms that stop service in half the country (yikes!) You don’t want to get a substitute gift because your original gift won’t be back in stock until January 17th!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

Step Four – Use Cash

They say cash is king, and they’re right! Especially when it comes to spending money. Because when the cash is out, the spending is done! It’s genius at its most basic, and it works every time (as long as you leave your credit cards at home). You simply cannot overspend on Christmas gifts!

Using cash envelopes is a strategy used by many successful budgeters! Besides, stuffing these cute festive holiday cash envelopes is fun! You can use one for each person you’re gifting to or use one for each holiday shopping category—I.e., food, decorations, gifting, fun times, supplies, etc. Or if you’re crafty here are some cash envelope templates that you can make on your own!

Nerdwallet references a cult classic report where, “An often-cited study is one conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, in which the company found that people spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash.”

Don’t forget that when you pay with cash, you won’t have to pay interest on the charge either! Look at it this way; when you pay cash, you’re buying something. When you pay with a credit card, you’re borrowing the money for it; you didn’t buy it (but you’ll pay extra for it in interest!)

Step Five – Don’t go into the stores!

This one sounds silly, I know, but it’s so painfully obvious. If you don’t have to go into a store, then don’t! Because really, we’ve all gone into a store, we don’t grab a cart because we just need one thing, and we come up to the cashier juggling items like a clown!  

Inevitably when you go into a store, it’s straight temptation. Why do that to yourself? Stay home, and send someone else to the store, or better yet, do some online ordering for that item you need!

Or if you’re poison is the 1-click buy, then take some super easy preventative measures. Delete your credit card info on your devices! GASP! I know, I know, it sounds drastic, but making it just the teensiest bit harder on yourself to shop online could mean saving hundreds! Because honestly, sometimes I don’t get up to walk across the house to grab my credit card number!

Better yet, do a marketing edit! Unsubscribe from those pesky emails from your favorite retailers and unfollow them on social media! You won’t want what you never see! Now, I know you’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, give it a try! You can always go back later and subscribe again!

Simple hacks to stop overspending on Christmas presents

Know your prices

Do you know the regular price of the “sale” item in your hand? Even though it says it’s on sale or discounted 20% off, it might still not be a great price! If you are 100% in on saving money this holiday season, then you should scout your gifts early, record their prices, and wait to see what the “holiday deals” actually are.

Many retailers change their prices regularly. What was $59 in September could easily now be $75 in December. Yet now they can mark it being 20% off! They get to keep their sales margin high enough to get a good profit, and you (the customer) feel like you got a good deal. Winner Winner… oh wait, that’s a bull$hit dinner!

Be smarter than the retailer!

Don’t go shopping when…

  • You are hungry
  • You’re short on time
  • With somebody else (friends can be bad influences, sorry friends)
  • It’s going to be super crowded (instead go early in the morning, or late at night)

Next years plan for Christmas gifting

If you get through this Christmas and going low key on gifts wasn’t for your family, then no problem. You can have the Christmas that your family wants; you may need to start socking away money for it a bit earlier than usual! Check out How to Start a Christmas Savings Plan and How to Plan the Perfect Christmas Budget!

At the end of the day

I know that reading about how to not overspend at Christmas sounds like a bummer of a topic. But honestly, think about how you’ll feel come January when you don’t have that big fat credit card bill that’s knocking out your wallet like it’s Balboa in Rocky 1!

I know that for many of us, we remember Christmases of youth, with mountains of presents, and we want to recreate those warm fuzzy memories for our own kids. But those warm fuzzy feelings can be created out of so many instances, not just present opening. So save yourself the agony and angst of overspending at Christmas, and don’t even go there!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

What are your top tips for how to stop overspending on holiday gifts ?

Source: moneyforthemamas.com

5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

Do you have high hopes that there will be traveling your family’s future, but not quite sure how you can afford it?

You’re not alone. While Americans will spend an average of 10% of their household income on vacationing this year, a full 74% take on debt for their trips. Each of these tips offers you both an easy and effective way to save a substantial amount of money off your next vacation trip. Use them wisely, and you might even be able to squeeze in some extra travel this year.

1. Make use of grocery store prepared food sections

Some people think it’s crazy to not eat at restaurants for all of your vacation meals. Mostly, they want the entire week off from cooking any food.

I don’t blame them (or you) for thinking this. So, what if I told you that you can still avoid cooking all week, and not actually eat out for every single meal?

While vacationing, find your local grocery store with a prepared food section. You can find hot meals for your family – complete with salads and desserts – for much less than what it would cost to eat out. Plus, there’s’ no need to pay a tip.

2. Plan activities around discount times and coupons

You can easily save a bundle on your vacation expenses by planning your activities around available discounts. This doesn’t have to be as limiting as it sounds, it just means you have to be smart about it. For example, you could:

  • Buy a local Entertainment book and use the tourist coupons that come with it.
  • Purchase discounted tickets to local attractions and activities on group buying sites (such as Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com) by entering the zip code of where you’ll be traveling to.
  • Plan your trip dates around free museum days (I did this on a trip to France, and got in to see the Louvre on its free Sunday of the month).

3. Change the season you travel in

One of the easiest ways you can save on almost all the costs of your next vacation is by simply changing the season that you take it. The time of year you choose makes a huge difference in how much you’ll pay – it’s a simple illustration of supply and demand.

During summertime when kids are out of school and families want to get their vacations in, you’ll pay more. But if you decide to leave for a trip to Disney World one week before schools traditionally let out? Then you’ll not only save yourself tons of waiting time in lines but a lot of money.

In fact, that’s what personally happened to me over five years ago when my husband and I decided last minute to drive to Disney World. It was May, and there were virtually no people around. No lines, no waiting, and hardly a kid in sight.

We asked anyone we could find what was going on, and they said that it would be all-out pandemonium just one week later when their peak season begins (when the majority of kids are out of school). We had unknowingly hit the jackpot, and our cheap hotel bill reinforced that!

Get creative by using winter breaks, trips during the school year, and long weekends in the off-season to save a bundle without even trying.

4. Rethink traditional hotel stays 

Next to transportation costs to get to your destination, hotel costs will make the second biggest dent in your budget. With an average cost of $133.34/night to stay in a hotel, you can see how a 5-night ($666.70) or a 7-night vacation ($933.38) can really add up.

One of the easiest ways to save on vacations is by rethinking traditional hotel stays.

Consider options like these, all of which I’ve done myself:

  • Staying with family or friends
  • Share a hotel room with family or friends
  • Book a rental with local homeowners instead of with hotels (using sites like AirBnB or Vrbo)
  • Use hotel deal sites to snatch up unfilled rooms (such as  Secretflying.com, and TheFlightDeal.com)

5.  Consider group travel

Traveling in groups allows you to pool your money for better rates. My husband’s family, for example, likes to go all-in on a beach house for a long weekend in Galveston. We generally get a 5 to 6-bedroom rental right on the beach, and the cost is just $200-$300 per family for 3-4 nights. If we were to travel on our own, we would never be able to afford such a nice place.

Not only that, but if your group travel entails a road trip, you may be able to carpool with someone to save on gas costs. And if you split up meal prep duties between families like we do? You not only have to cook only once or twice per stay, but you don’t have to eat out in restaurants the whole time.

Another way to secure travel savings in groups is by going after group discounts. Whether booking excursions, airfare, or anything else with a travel agent or by yourself, be sure to ask about possible group discounts.

Don’t forget to shop around

Pricing for hotels, airfare, and things to do can vary greatly. Don’t just visit a company’s website and assume that’s the best price. Check a number of sites — including discounters like Priceline — and look for package deals. You should also consider looking for less-traditional sources for booking trip. Warehouse clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, for example, offer deals on travel (sometimes very good ones).

It’s also important to use any discounts you have coming your way. Are you in AAA? Does someone in the family have a trade association membership that offers special deals? Check and you might unlock a special deal. Use these “work smarter, not harder” strategies when it comes to saving money on your next vacation, and you won’t have vacation debt lingering for months after your return.

–By Amanda Grossman

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

8 Essential Rules for Surviving Financial Hardship

If you’re struggling with a financial crisis, follow these eight rules to manage money wisely, stretch your resources, and bounce back. Acting quickly will help you understand solutions, limit the damage, and have more hope for the future.

By

Laura Adams, MBA
August 19, 2020

financial advisor, legitimate credit counselor, or an attorney.

Instead of focusing on the problem, getting angry, or letting stress overwhelm you, channel your emotions into finding solutions.

The following financial associations have certified volunteers who can offer free help and advice:

Rule #2: Get a bird’s eye view of your finances

To fully understand your situation, create a list of what you own and owe; this is called a net worth statement. Compiling your data in one place helps you evaluate your financial resources, make decisions more efficiently, and have essential information at your fingertips if creditors or advisors ask for it.

First, list your assets: 

  • Cash
  • Investments
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles 

Then list your liabilities:

  • Mortgage
  • Car loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card debt

Include the estimated values of your assets, the balances on your debts, and the interest rates you pay for each liability. You could jot down this information on paper, enter it in a computer spreadsheet, or create a report using money management software.

When you subtract your total liabilities from your total assets, you’ve calculated your net worth, which is an indicator of your financial health. It’s not uncommon to have a low or negative net worth when you’re in financial trouble.

RELATED: 10 Things Student Loan Borrowers Should Know About Coronavirus Relief  

Rule #3: Understand your cash flow

An essential part of bouncing back from a financial crisis is keeping an eye on your monthly income and expenses. Create a cash flow statement that lists your expected income and typical expenses, such as rent, utilities, food, prescriptions, transportation, and insurance. Again, you can create this report manually or by using budgeting features in a financial program.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending.

Understanding where your money goes is the only way to prioritize expenses and cut all non-essential spending. Making temporary sacrifices will help you recover as quickly as possible with less long-term damage to your finances.

Rule #4: Shop your essential expenses

As you review your spending, it’s an excellent time to comparison-shop your essential expenses. Evaluate your highest costs first, such as housing, vehicles, and insurance, since they offer the most significant potential savings.

For instance, you may be able to move into a less expensive home, purchase or lease a cheaper vehicle, and shop your auto insurance to find better deals. Ask your utility provider about assistance programs that offer energy-saving improvements at no charge.

Rule #5: Communicate with your creditors

If you haven’t been in contact with your creditors, start a dialog with each one immediately. You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles. Ask them for solutions, such as deferring payments for several months, setting up a reduced payment plan, or refinancing a loan to reduce your financial burden.

You’ll come out ahead and get favorable treatment from creditors if you are proactive and honest about your financial troubles.

Creditors are likely to ask about details regarding your financial situation, so have your net worth and cash flow statements on hand when you speak to them. Be ready to complete any required assistance applications quickly.

Rule #6: Prioritize your debts carefully

Based on guidance from creditors and finance professionals, prioritize your bills and debts carefully. Your goal should be to conserve as much cash as possible without skipping essential payments. Always pay for necessities first: food, prescription drugs, and auto insurance.

Debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized

Use your net worth statement to rank your liabilities from highest to lowest priority. For instance, debts related to child support and legal judgments have severe consequences and should be prioritized. Keeping up with an auto loan is a high priority if you rely on your vehicle for transportation. Federal student loans are in automatic forbearance through September 30, and the relief may get extended through 2020.

Your unsecured debts—medical bills, credit cards, and private student loans—are lower priorities. Never pay these debts ahead of rent, a mortgage, or utilities when you have a cash shortage.

Rule #7: Don’t let collectors force you to make bad decisions

Prioritizing your debts means some may be paid late or not at all. If a debt collector contacts you about a low-priority debt, such as a medical bill or credit card, don’t allow them to persuade you to pay it before your highest priority bills.

Collectors may try various aggressive tactics, such as threatening to sue you or ruin your credit. A lawsuit could take years, and a creditor is more likely to negotiate a settlement with you. Remember that a creditor or collector can’t send you to jail for civil debts.

If you are behind on bills, that fact is likely already reflected on your credit reports. By the time a collector contacts you, the damage is already done, and paying the bill won’t improve your credit in the short-term.

Rule #8: Take advantage of local and federal benefits

If your income and savings have entirely dried up, use these resources to learn more about local and federal benefits.

  • FeedingAmerica.org has a map showing local food banks
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the federal food program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov can help you find a housing counselor or see if your mortgage is backed by the federal government and qualifies for forbearance
  • Benefits.gov has a questionnaire that helps you discover the benefits you’re eligible for
  • Medicaid.gov is the federal health insurance program you may qualify for based on where you live, your income, and family size
  • Healthcare.gov is the federal health insurance marketplace where you may find plans with substantial subsidies if you earn too much to qualify for Medicaid

Financial challenges can cause you and your family to experience a flood of emotions, including anger, fear, and embarrassment. As difficult as it might be to put a financial crisis into perspective, it’s critical. No matter what challenge you’re facing, you’re not the first. There are millions of people who are dealing with COVID-related financial hardships.

Face the fact that your recovery could take a while. Do everything in your power to manage your budget wisely by getting organized, seeking ways to earn more, and spending less. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from creditors, seek free advice from professionals, and take advantage of every local and federal benefit possible.