By Robert A. Vandenbergh
Shopping, travel, home entertaining and dining out … the holidays can be tough on finances. Sticking to your budget isn’t easy, but with some knowledge, planning and resolve you can have a great holiday season without spending too much. Here are some tips to help you save money this season.
1. Create a holiday budget and stick to it.
Creating a budget for gift buying and wrapping, holiday entertaining, decorating and traveling will arm you with a good estimate of how much money you will spend. This can help prevent over-spending, which can put you and your family in a stressful financial situation after the holiday fun is over. Microsoft Office personal budgeting templates offer great holiday planners to help get you started and keep you on track.
2. Take time to search for great deals.
Giving yourself a head start to shop around for the best prices - whether online, at department stores, or at your local boutique - can help you save money. To stay informed about sales and holiday coupons, sign up for emails from your favorite brands or stores and look for offers in newspapers and magazines.
3. Entertain on a budget.
Food costs are expected to jump 12 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation, which says costs will also rise for wine, flowers and decorations. One strategy is to have your party away from home. Many restaurants offer deals, including daily deal sites like Groupon.com - and there’s no cleanup afterwards! Likewise, these sites sometimes offer catering packages at half off or more during the holidays. Savvy shopping can also help with food costs. For hints on how to save at the supermarket check, CouponMom.com and DealRadar.com.
4. Think about your 2012 donations and tax records.
The holidays are a good time to consider offsetting taxable income by contributing to your IRA and designating charitable contributions. Check charities by visiting Charity Navigator or see how Forbes ranked charities in 2011. Believe it or not, the IRS website is a good place to find out about tax savings. Your local accountant or tax advisor can be a great resource as well.
5. Utilize tools to help you save on travel.
Whether you want to visit family or are looking for a tropical holiday, it can be difficult to get a good deal on travel. One strategy is to be flexible: go where the savings lead you. Last year, Cancun, Mexico was a relative bargain among warm weather destinations. Also, airline discount programs can be worth investigating. Spirit Airlines, to give just one example, sometimes offers very low fares, though you have to be quick and travel during off-peak times. For more, Kiplinger Magazine ranks top money saving travel sites.
6. Save with programs like ‘BaZing’ and Elite checking from Lakeland Bank.
BaZing, a discount program offered with the Elite account from Lakeland Bank, offers significant discounts on shopping, dining, travel and more. BaZing’s network includes more than 300,000 national and local merchants, including big brand retailers like Target, Home Depot and Verizon Wireless. If you’re an Elite Checking account holder, be sure to log into BaZing to look for additional holiday savings. And while we’re on the subject of banking, consider using your debit card more this holiday season. Debit cards are a great budgeting tool because, unlike credit cards, they only enable you to spend money you actually have.
We hope these tips help you save money this holiday season. For more useful tips on managing your money, “Like” us on Facebook