All around us are the reminders of the holiday season to come. Sugar plums are dancing, holiday décor has been on the shelves since before Halloween and people everywhere start wondering where they are going to find the funds to pay for all the things that bring holiday joy.
Where did time go?
If you’re like many people and have been so busy that you have completely forgotten about holiday shopping until now, never fear. There is still time to budget for the gift-giving season, but be prepared to elbow your way through the crowds of happy shoppers. (We can hope, right?) So, with only a month until you get to see those bright and shining faces when they find the things they’ve always wanted wrapped in pretty paper, here’s how you get started.
Before you take one step into the store, think realistically about what you can afford, especially if you haven’t been saving specifically for holiday gifts. So, how much cash will you have available in the next few weeks that you can use to pay for items? If cash isn’t a viable option this late in the game, a credit card can be a solution; however, it’s important to still stick to a strict and realistic budget because a credit card still has to be paid back (and with interest, too).
Once you have a budget number, stick to it, and stores with layaway options are going to be your best friend. You can find the specific details on each store’s layaway policy on their respective websites. This isn’t a comprehensive list, so check with your favorite stores to see if they offer any layaway options.
- Best Buy
- Burlington Coat Factory
- TJ Maxx
- Many jewelry and antique stores
The biggest perk to using the layaway options is you can go to the store right now and choose the items you’d like (while staying in your budget) and pay for them as you have cash freed up over the next month. Be prepared. Many stores do require you to put a “down payment” of sorts on the items you purchase, which is usually 10 percent, and some add an additional service fee to ensure that you will actually come back to finish paying for them.
Whew. I’ve got some time on my hands.
Once the holiday season is over, sometimes it’s best to start thinking ahead. There will be less of a financial strain and a rush when next year comes around. Here’s how you can get a jump on next year’s holiday shopping.
Many banks offer “Christmas” or “holiday” savings accounts that will give you a good amount of interest on the money that you put into it. Think about what you’d like your budget to be next year and divide that by the number of paychecks, months or weeks until next November. Sometimes, it can be as little as saving $10 or $20 per paycheck. Also keep in mind that many of these accounts will put a restriction on how many times you can withdraw the money per year (usually because it’s intended to be a piggy bank that you can’t get into until the holidays).
If you plan ahead, you can always be on the lookout for gifts at a discounted price. Go into your favorite stores and check out the clearance or sale section. You never know what you might find! Personally, I’m shopping for gifts year round not only for the holidays but also for birthdays, wedding and baby showers.
It’s important to remember that the holidays aren’t about how much you spend on gifts, but about the time that we get to enjoy with our family and friends. Happy shopping!