Four ways to keep spending in check this holiday season

The holiday season is full of social events, travel and gift-giving. All occasions to enjoy, but potentially also occasions where you need to dip into your savings. It’s natural to think about how this season can impact your financial well-being.

That’s why we’re here to offer you some easy ways to spend within your comfort zone while still making the most of your holiday season with your family, friends and loved ones.

Giving gifts? Set some expectations

Having up-front conversations about budgeting and gifts is one way to avoid feeling a financial pinch during the holiday season. Instead of going all-out and buying the perfect gift for everyone in your life, have a conversation well in advance about what will make sense for everyone.

Be realistic. Look at your savings, your income and your current debt. How much are you able to spend on gifts this year without taking a hit financially? What does that mean for your gift-giving budget?

Happy couple holding bags and wrapped gifts after shopping

Be open and honest with others about what’s feasible, and offer up alternatives! A White Elephant gift exchange can be a great way to ensure gift-giving stays fun while lessening the impact on your wallet. Secret Santa is another fun way to give gifts in a group, one that allows for a more personal touch.

And finally, if it’s really not in the cards for you this year, agreeing not to exchange gifts with others is totally acceptable. In fact, many people find that doing so allows them to enjoy the holidays even more. In this economy, you’re likely not the only one considering your options, so these conversations may even come as a relief to your friends and family. All you need to do is be upfront, genuine and specific about expectations.

Gathering for a meal? Plan ahead

With parties aplenty and friends looking to catch up, it can be easy to go over budget on food and nights out over the holiday season. Here are some suggestions to lessen the financial burden.

Festive tablescape

Going to a restaurant overly hungry may tempt you to order more. Eating a late lunch or a small snack before heading out can help control the urge to order all the delicious apps you see, when having one or two with a friend may be all you need — and more fun, too.

Since the company is more important than the meal, don’t be afraid to suggest an alternative. Instead of dinner out at that fancy new restaurant, how about a fun dessert place or a funky diner? If coworkers suggest lunch, why not suggest an afternoon jaunt to a local coffee shop for festive beverages?

If you’re cooking at home for a lot of people, suggest a potluck. You could supply the main course and ask everyone else to bring sides and desserts. Having a fun theme, like everyone bringing a dish that starts with the first letter of their name, makes it more of a game than a meal! Shifting traditional dinners to brunch or lunch can also make meals more affordable.

Hitting the town? Designate yourself as the driver

As your social life picks up during the holidays, costs of food, drinks and transportation can add up fast.

If you’re planning for fun nights out, consider volunteering yourself as the designated driver for a night or two; not only will your friends appreciate having a DD, you won’t have to pay for a rideshare, taxi or bus — not to mention drinks. Enjoy the time with your loved ones, and maybe some music and dancing, without breaking the bank.

Fun fact, many bars, clubs and restaurants will offer you free water and fountain beverages if you let them know you’re the designated driver that night. Score!

The main thing? Stick to your budget

This one requires some planning, but we all know planning is the key to financial success.

This winter, make a budget for everything you expect to spend, and keep it in line with what you can reasonably afford. Include budget lines for dining out, one-off get-togethers with friends, gift exchanges, gatherings with family, dinners you’ll host and anything else you might need to cover.

A hand writing on document titled "Gift Giving Budget"

Aim for balance between your obligations and your earnings. Allowing yourself the occasional indulgence is key to staying on track; cutting back too far may lead to you to blow up your plan when it proves difficult.

Sometimes, you’ll have to make adjustments and prioritize, even into the new year. If a trip to see loved ones over the holidays is really important to you, that may mean cutting back a bit in the months that follow. Decide how you’ll do that ahead of time to make it easier. If you’re getting a bonus or pay raise in the new year, you can take that into account—but be sure it’s a guarantee so you don’t spend outside your comfort zone.

Don’t forget to think about upcoming obligations. If you have a big trip planned, or need new windows in the spring or want to get a new car in the fall, make sure your winter spending doesn’t put any of those goals in jeopardy.

Woman smiling at her phone and holding shopping bags

Once you’ve made your budget, stick to it. You may have to get creative with gift-giving, cut a few less important items or move budget items around as actual spending happens, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you come out of the season full of joy, not financial anxiety.

ACU can help you with budgeting and financial planning. Book an appointment with us today.

Assiniboine Credit Union has lots of options to help you take control of debt and manage your money this winter and all year round.

Make an appointment with Assiniboine Credit Union to start planning for your financial future, including investing and savings strategies that will help your money do more this holiday season.

Get advice that aligns with your values.

If you find your credit card a burden, ACU even offers a low-interest Centra Visa* Gold Card – a card that allows you to gain points on eligible purchases and redeem them for merchandise, gift cards, cash rewards in statement credit, travel expenses and charitable donations.

ACU Collabria Visa Centra Gold

Find out more by visiting ACU’s website.

*Visa Int. / Licensed User.

About Jacob Marks

Jacob Marks is a writer and communications professional based in Winnipeg, MB. Experienced with diverse clients and across sectors, he specializes in issues management, brand management and telling compelling stories no matter the medium.

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