Holiday Budgeting Tips for Seniors
By Roger Liddell, Co-Owner Caring Transitions of the Chippewa Valley
Inflation plus the adjustment to retired life or a new low income might have you worried over holiday spending. With a little planning and some helpful money-saving tips, you can avoid debt and enjoy what makes the holidays special for you.
Create a Holiday Budget
Creating a holiday budget is the first (and probably most important) step in creating a holiday season free of overspending.
To create a holiday budget:
1. Analyze spending from last year or previous years to help determine a baseline for how much you usually spend, and decide if you are able to stay in that ballpark or need to aim lower.
2. Next, set a spending limit. To do this, jot down a list of spending categories.
These may include:
Gifts for friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, etc.
Wrapping & packaging supplies
Food for cooking and baking
Holiday experiences and events
From there, you can determine roughly how much money you’ll allot to each section and your overall spending limit.
How to Stick to Your Holiday Budget
People easily slide into holiday debt because of impulse buys. Sometimes you need a separate plan in addition to your spending plan - a plan on how to avoid and minimize impulse buys.
Impulse buys are very common over the holidays. They aren’t always bad, and sometimes it just isn’t feasible to avoid them altogether. However, it is a good idea to minimize holiday impulse buying because it can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Here are some tips on how to minimize impulse buying and stick to your budget:
Set a gift limit ahead of time. For many people, the largest holiday expense is gifts. To prevent an unanticipated credit card bill and unwanted holiday debt, determine a specific list of gifts (and spending limit per recipient) before you set foot in the store or start shopping online.
Plan for it! If you know you are in the habit of impulse buying, you can actually build that into your holiday budget up front. Allow a certain amount of money for those things you might see at the store. That way you know you’re able to have some flexibility, which can minimize shopping anxiety and buyer’s remorse.
Bring a list. Don’t go shopping without a list; this can help you focus and get what you need without too many (or any) distractions.
Bring a buddy. It might help to shop with your spouse or a friend or family member for accountability.
Celebrate little wins. Find ways to celebrate holiday shopping “wins.” You can define what a win would look like. An example might be: you went to three stores for gifts for the grandkids and came back under budget with everything on the list.
Don’t forget about food. Impulse buying can include snacks, coffee, or fast food you purchase while you’re out shopping or traveling. Be sure to account for those kinds of items in your budget if that’s something you want to engage in, or just bring your own snacks and drinks if you can’t afford it.
Plan your holiday menu. To avoid extra spending on holiday meals and baking ingredients, create a menu ahead of time and look for coupons and sales at the grocery store.
Make a list for travel. When traveling, write a packing list before you go to avoid having to purchase items you forgot.
Be aware of checked baggage limits. If you are flying out of town for the holidays and plan to do a gift exchange at your destination, it may be cheaper (and less stressful) to ship your gifts ahead of time due to checked baggage fees and limits. Compare rates before deciding how much luggage to bring and whether to ship gifts. Additionally, you may want to ship the gifts you receive back to your home so you don’t end up with unanticipated baggage expenses.
Track spending. Use a free budgeting app to help keep your holiday spending on track. Many banks offer this and there are also some other free online options available.