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How to Stretch Your Holiday Budget

Whether you’re a big-time holiday planner or someone who takes a more “go with the festive flow” approach to the season, seasonal spending can creep up on you quickly. Here are five hidden holiday costs to keep an eye on, and tips for stretching your dollar further this holiday season.

Hidden Holiday Costs

  1. Gift wrap and all the trimmings. The cost of wrapping gifts, including gift wrap, gift bags, tissue paper, tags, tape, and bows can add up fast. To save money, get creative by using gift-wrap alternatives like extra wallpaper, out-of-date maps, or even old newspaper. Reuse gift bags, and recycle old ribbons and bows from packages you received.

  2. Shipping costs. Shipping packages can cost more than you expect. When possible, try free site-to-store shipping to avoid fees. And remember Free Shipping is December 14, when many online retailers offer free shipping with no minimum purchase.

  3. Charitable giving. Out of the goodness of your heart, you may wish to give donations this holiday season. It’s a noble way to spend your money, but if money is tight, you may want to set a limit on your total charitable giving or look for other ways to give back. Consider volunteering your time as a low-cost way to be charitable.

  4. Energy costs. Running string lights and other electric holiday decorations can put a strain on your energy bill. Switch out old strands with new Energy Star-rated LED lights, which use very little electricity. Check with your local government or home improvement stores about recycling old lights.

  5. Self-gifting. Holiday sales aren’t just a great way to find gifts for friends and family. They’re also a trap of temptation, when you might come across deals for items you’d love to own. It isn’t always easy, but try your best to stick to your shopping list, or at least set a limit on self-spending.

Stretch Your Dollar Further

To avoid going overboard on gifts and more, be ready with specific lists, amounts, and shopping strategies.

Get your plan in place. First things first – Create a budget, or spending plan, for holiday purchases. In addition to gifts, you may want to include food, travel expenses, and the hidden costs listed previously. Set reasonable limits and only include funds you know you have available – not a bonus that may not happen this year.

Make your list and check it twice – before and after you make purchases. Shop with a list and stay focused. Be sure to note when you buy something and how much it cost so you can easily tell if you’re staying in budget. Keep receipts in a safe place in case you can get a price adjustment or need to make a return.

Consider paying with cash. Many shoppers have an emotional attachment to cash and will think more carefully about a purchase if cash is the only option. If you’re more likely to overspend with your credit or debit card, try using cash only.

Budget-Friendly Financial Tools

DCU’s Digital Banking services can help you stay on top of your finances now and all year round. For example, you can:

  • Check your account balances.
  • Set up alerts to ensure you don’t spend over a certain amount.
  • Make transfers and payments.

Visit our Financial Education page for additional resources that can help you spend wisely and save more.      

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.