Momlogic's financial expert Danielle Hoston: When it comes to holiday shopping, we all tend to break the budget in the name of celebrating the holidays. We want to look our best, enjoy the time we are spending with our friends and family, and get everything that our children and significant other's hearts desire. This year, arm yourself with a quick holiday budget before Black Friday and Cyber Monday rear their ugly heads and your new year brings credit card bills with higher balances.
As a quick rule of thumb, you shouldn't spend more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday gifts. And you should never spend more on your credit cards than you can completely pay off in one or two months. Also, when doing your budget, don't forget to account for the commonly forgotten items ... i.e new holiday party outfits, new home decorations, extra food for potlucks and family dinners, and -- of course -- "stocking stuffers."
Once you've completed your budget, take a hard look at where you can trim some of the extra dollars. Any experienced shopper knows to "shop early and online" during the holidays so take advantage of free shipping offers and the ability to price check online.
Here are a few more suggestions for saving holiday cash:
1. Implement "Secret Santa" at more than just your workplace. Plan a "Secret Santa" event for every place that you anticipate having a gift exchange. You can use this Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to draw names and come up with price limits for this year's holiday gifts.
2. Don't underestimate the value of a hand-written note or a simple bottle of wine. Instead of buying that sweater or wallet that could potentially get returned the following week, take the time to write a note or card or tie a simple bow on a bottle of moderately-priced wine. This will help eliminate those last-minute budget busters for people that you didn't anticipate a gift exchange with.
3. Take your kids on a pre-holiday shopping excursion and give them a budget. Here is your opportunity to find out what their biggest holiday wish is and simultaneously teach them the value of the things that they desire.
4. Consider hand-made, original gifts. You don't have to be Suzie Homemaker to make your friends and family a great gift. Consider a photo album with meaningful pictures -- digital scanning and high-quality color copies have made this easy and very cost-effective.
5. Instead of buying new clothes for holiday parties, consider having a "Holiday Clothing Swap." This is a great way to get a new party outfit, have fun with your friends, and also clean out your closet. You can't lose!
Finally ... let this holiday season be about the time you share with your loved ones and not the money you spend. Anybody who has ever lost a loved one will tell you that the presence of that person is the holiday present that they miss the most. This year, save your money and hug your family. Your credit card balances will thank you for it.