By Lindsey Smith

How Can My Bank Help Me Budget For the Holidays?

The holiday season is one of the best times of the year, filled with family gatherings, festive activities, and plenty of seasonal goodies. However, this can also be a pretty stressful time for those of us trying to juggle the expenses of holiday gifts, events, and more. Depending on the size of your family and friend groups, you may be looking at a long list.

This year will also bring new challenges with a global pandemic keeping people in their homes and away from the festivities, but even so, there’s still plenty of ways you can safely celebrate. That’s where we come in. The Availa Bank staff is here to help you find the best ways to bring holiday cheer without breaking the bank.

Where Do I Start?

The first step to creating and maintaining a holiday budget is to make sure you know where your finances are at. This is very similar to a regular budget plan, but with holiday expenses only. Do you know your monthly income? Do you have a record of past holiday expenses and a plan for all of your regular monthly expenses during the holiday season? If not, take a look at our other budget blogs to see how to make a plan for yourself. If you’ve already created a budget you stick to regularly, congratulations! You’re ready to move on to the next step of the holiday budget plan.

Once you’ve determined all of your expenses, savings, and other costs for the month, now is the time to make a list of all of the holiday related events/gifts that cost money. Does it seem a little long? Let’s brainstorm how to make that list as budget friendly as possible. Some ways you can quickly trim down your budget are:

  1. Organizing a gift exchange at your workplace, with your friends, and even at your family gatherings. This way, you only have to buy one gift for each event.
  2. Finding ways to do holiday traditions for free (or a reduced price) – Now this one may be easier than ever this year since most large scale events are canceled, but if you can do things like bring your own hot chocolate to caroling or bring your own skates to ice skating, you can save some serious money.
  3. Like looking at all the holiday lights? Driving through a local neighborhood that goes all out every year could be less expensive than traveling to a specifically designated light festival.
  4. Need to send out your yearly holiday cards? You don’t have to do fancy photo sessions every single year. There are plenty of cheap ways to make your own cards. You can use photos you’ve taken throughout the year or get your kids to help decorate with glitter, stamps, and more. It will feel more personalized to the receiver and you will have a fun family bonding moment.
  5. Looking for a cheaper way to give gifts? It helps to start buying gifts earlier in the season when there are sales galore. Focus on specific items you know that person will love and track down when it will be on sale or have free shipping.

Since this year has been especially hard on small businesses, you can also try shopping local. You won’t have to spend lots of money traveling to your destination and many small businesses are eager to work with you to offer no-contact pick up or delivery options. You’ll be supporting your community and staying safe.

 6. Another easy way to save money on gifts? Make them yourself. People love the thought and effort put into a homemade gift, even if it’s something simple. Baking cookies is a relatively easy and quick gift idea that’s perfect for everyone. People will love that you thought of them and your wallet will love that you didn’t have to spend time and money in the store tracking down the perfect gift.

 7. Want to make sure you never go over budget again? Put all of your spending amounts into a tracking app and update it every time you make a purchase. If you get a good deal on one person’s gift, that extra money could be funneled elsewhere, whether it’s a gift for someone else or a different holiday activity.

Why Isn't my Budget Enough?

Now, if you’ve gotten to this point and thought of all the ways you can save money and it still doesn’t seem like enough, come January 1st, make yourself a holiday fund. Set aside $10 or more every month into this fund to make sure that next year you’ll have some spending money. Keep this amount realistic though. The key is to not spend over 1% of your total yearly income on gifts. With a little planning and determination, you can be sure that you and your wallet will be full of cheer this holiday season and for years to come.

Want to make saving each month even easier? At Availa Bank, our associates would be happy to help you set up a savings account with automatic deposit options so that you don’t have to worry about it. You can check out our options online and then give your local banker a call today to get started!

Got any more expert holiday saving tips? Let us know!

General

Availa Bank locations are in the following communities: Carroll, Ames, Ankeny, Arcadia, Coon Rapids, Council Bluffs, Fort Dodge, Holstein, Jewell, Nevada, Roland, Sioux City, Pocahontas, and Webster City. For more information about Availa Bank, visit the website at www.Availa.Bank and follow them on Facebook. Member FDIC.