Money & Career

6 tips for easy holiday budgeting

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Money & Career

6 tips for easy holiday budgeting

Holiday shopping can be a slippery slope. Instead of letting your credit cards absorb the impact of last-minute spending, abide by financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade's rules for staying on budget. Believe it or not, it is possible to come out of the season on top -- or at least not in the red.

1. Adopt "plan spending"
Christmas comes every year, but we still seem to end up shopping at the last minute.

"It's almost as though we don't think Christmas is coming," says Vaz-Oxlade. "So a few weeks before, people [charge everything] and carry their balances through. While they may have been on budget for Christmas, because they put everything on their cards and didn't pay them off immediately, they end up paying significantly more than they need to."

To avoid this scenario, Vaz-Oxlade suggests saving ahead of time. "I try to press upon people ‘plan spending,'" she explains. "You accumulate money for the spending that you're going to do. So every month, you put away a certain amount of money that you know you're going to lay out, and that way it's not a surprise."

2. Buy ahead of time
Not only will buying gifts ahead of time help you avoid the jam-packed malls, you'll also save quite a bit of money since you can shop during sales earlier in the year.

"Why would you leave [Christmas shopping] so long, anyway?" asks Vaz-Oxlade. "You know you're going to buy a present. So, it's August and you see a scarf on sale -- buy it and put it away and give it to your sister at Christmas."

3. Make a list
Writing down who you need to buy gifts for and what you've already bought them will also help you avoid overspending, assures Vaz-Oxlade.

"Have a list, and then as you buy stuff, put what you bought against the names," she recommends. "That way, when December comes along, you'll look at your list and see who you have covered. If you have a plan, you won't fall into situations that get you to spend more money."4. Don't buy presents for yourself
Just because you like something doesn't mean someone else will. That's why Vaz-Oxlade suggests abandoning status gifts and buying gift cards for those on your list who you don't know well.

"If you're buying a present to impress the person you're gifting to, you're buying the present for you," she stresses. "Why bother? Go with something fairly neutral -- that's where the gift card comes in. But try to personalize it to the individual you're buying for; don't buy them a vase or a mug, please."

5. Regift when possible
Provided you're not doing it to appease your present quota, Vaz-Oxlade condones regifting.

"I don't consider it to be tacky at all -- assuming you're not just wrapping it up and giving it away to fulfil a gift requirement," she maintains. "I remember receiving a particular kind of tea as a gift. It's not my favourite, so I regifted it to someone whose favourite it is. Just make sure you're regifting for that person and not for yourself."

6. Keep decorating in mind
Aspects of the holidays such as decorating, baking, hosting and travel can all affect your budget, so Vaz-Oxlade recommends creating a holiday shopping plan.

"People never include decor, hostess gifts, wrapping or their mailing costs," she explains. "And then we pay out of our pockets and wonder why our budgets got off track. So if you have a holiday shopping plan [determining what you'll be spending on things other than gifts] and you go over budget, you'll know why you went over and it won't be a surprise in January," she says.

"Compare your monthly budget with your holiday spending plan and take the money out of your entertainment budget for the month, since the holidays are entertainment anyway."
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6 tips for easy holiday budgeting

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