Trick question. It's never too early to start saving. With that in mind, here are some tips and strategies to help you build your holiday shopping nest egg.
It’s almost spooky Halloween time which means it’s almost Thanksgiving time which means it’s almost time for both of those times to be ignored in favor of the Holiday Time!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or Festivus, Americans go all out when it comes to holiday spending. Unfortunately, that means your wallet and bank account won’t be filled with holiday cheer. Instead, your holiday cheer will be leaving them completely empty.
If you want to be prepared for the shopping challenges to come, you’re going to need to start saving. But is it too early to start saving for the holidays?
No, it is not.
Every savings expert we talked to assured us that it is not too early to start saving for the holiday season. So you probably know what you should be doing once you finish this article.
“It is definitely not too early to start saving for the Holidays,” advised financial educator and ExBanker Joseph Dillard. “In fact, I think it is a little late but not too late. We know that the holidays are the same time every year. I think you should start saving for the holidays at the beginning of the year.”
And as we said, Dillard wasn’t alone in suggesting you start your holiday saving right now, if not sooner.
“As a third generation thrift shopper, I can honestly say that EVERY day is the perfect day to start saving on holiday shopping!” suggested Carrie Aulenbacher, creator of the Erie Shopping page.
Real estate professional Chantay Bridges echoed Dillard’s warning: “It’s almost too late. Now is a great time to begin prepping for the next few months, getting ready and get a great head start for the holidays.”
OK so now we know that it’s already time to start saving for the holidays, but how would one go about doing that?
Make a plan.
There’s a reason Sun Tzu started his less popular sequel, The Art of Saving, with an entire chapter on making plans. Because making plans is the first step towards saving, as our experts advised. Clearly, they got some Sun Tzu in their stockings last holiday season!
“Make a list of the people you plan on buying for and place the amount of money you plan on spending on each person,” explained financial coach and author Karen Ford. “Total the figures and that’s your budget for the holidays. Divide that amount with the number of weeks before shopping. This is how much you need to save each week for the shopping trips. The better prepared you are with cash the less likely you’ll need to go into debt.”
Dillard backed up that advice: “You should determine how much it is going to cost, then divide that amount evenly throughout the year into weekly, biweekly, or monthly amounts, then have that amount transferred to an online savings account, directly from your paycheck if possible, to make access to it a little more difficult.
“Deposit money regularly into another savings account to use for emergencies and to make sure that you do not dip into your holiday savings account. Some banks and credit unions still have what is known as a ‘Christmas Club’ Savings Account. This is specifically for saving for the holidays.”
Once your plan is set, you’re going to want to make some adjustments to your lifestyle to make achieving those savings goals easier.
If saving was simple, you’d be doing it perfectly already. But if you want to be in the best possible financial situation for the holidays, it’ll mean some alterations for the rest of the year.
Bridges offered us a few such adjustments to consider:
- “Give yourself a curfew: I know you are no longer a teenager but if you reduce the amount of activities you normally do, including hanging out at night, you are sure to secure more dollars for your holiday savings account. While your friends run to happy hour, spending their extra cash, yours will be right where it belongs, in your pocket. Go straight home after work and watch your dollars add up!
- “Switch the script: I know you have a regular routine. Each day you stop by your favorite coffee place, grab a cup, muffin, or breakfast sandwich and head to work. If you switch up a little bit, spend that time making your breakfast pick-me-up at home, you will save a nice portion that can go towards the upcoming holidays with no regret of overspending because you’ll be ready with extra on hand.
- “Begin to walk: In lieu of paying for extravagant parking, you can park on the streets a little further out. The exercise will do you good and save your pocketbook so much you can put it in your holiday fund.”
You also don’t have to limit your holiday shopping to the holiday season. In fact, you might save a lot more if you don’t!
“I hit estate sales weekly throughout the year and come across all types of holiday decorations and special (still wrapped! with tags!) gifts that can be picked up on the cheap and added to the ‘present pile’ at home,” advised Aulenbacher. “Many gifts can be picked up this way that don’t even need to be holiday themed.
“An old book, some unique blown glass piece, anything goes these days for gifts, and estate sale and consignment sale shopping can really help get you set up for holiday gift giving at a fraction of the price. Keeping the person in mind when you shop and finding them something that one can’t buy online is sometimes the best way to show you appreciate and care about them.
“Plus, you save on the budget, don’t pay for shipping, and help local entrepreneurs right in your hometown community!”
In addition to changing the way you do your holiday saving, you could change the way you do your holiday shopping. Maybe even consider less shopping.
Here’s what author and financial life planner Michael F. Kay had to say:
“As you approach the holidays, it’s time to consider and confront some big issues. For example, are you going to put a hard budget in place before the holiday music hits the airwaves, or are you perhaps going to shift your celebration away from buying and instead focus on creating an experience to share with those you love and value?
“There are lots of ways to spend the holidays rather than overspending. Here are a few ideas:
- “Create a project for your family to join in that might have a charitable intent. I know one family that asks all family members (other than small children) to forgo gifts in exchange for making a family donation to a charity of choice.
- “Donate time at a soup kitchen or some other project that shifts your focus from spending financial resources to joyful giving.
- “Have conversations with your family members to arrange holiday celebrations to be more inclusive of combined efforts, such as gift exchanges with a strict limitation on spending.”
Whether you decide to go all out or have a more modest holiday season, starting your saving now won’t hurt. And with these tips, your wallet will certainly be feeling a little jollier.
Carrie Aulenbacher is a third generation thrift shopper in Erie, PA, who enjoys sharing her love of saving with her community. She hosts a FB page, Erie Shopping, where members can see her county-wide map and check out consignment and thrift shops throughout the area to enjoy great savings. In her spare time, she is a romance novelist and working mom who loves a cat in her lap when she’s not shopping!
Chantay Bridges is America’s leading mogul, who utilizes her gifts and abilities in outreach to her community and world around her. She is an exceptional Realtor, (translation: the one you want to hire), Author, Speaker and a keen philanthropist with a strong business acumen.
Joseph Dillard graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1989 with a B.A. in Economics. He has been in the financial services industry for 30 years, with 15 years in Retail Banking Management. Joseph also has a Life Insurance license, in addition to Series 6 and Series 63 licenses. His experience in Banking and involvement in the community lead Joseph to become very passionate about Financial Education. He wants individuals to learn how to take advantage of the financial services industry instead of being taken advantage of by that industry.
Karen Ford is a Master Financial Coach, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Best- Selling Author. Her #1 Amazon Best Selling Book “Money Matters” is a discovery for many. In “Money Matters” she provides keys to demolishing debt, shares how to budget correctly, and gives principles in wealth building.
Michael F. Kay, is the founder and president of Financial Life Focus (FLF) (@FinLifeFocus), a fee-only multi-advisor financial life planning firm. Kay established FLF on the belief that advisors should keep their focus on what their clients find meaningful and help them align their values and their money. Kay, an early leader in the financial life planning movement, is the author of two books: The Feel Rich Project, a playbook that shows readers how to match their money with the life they want and The Business of Life, a guide for financial planners to align their practice with their lives.
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