Holiday Spending Aftermath: Get Your Finances Back on Track
If you didn’t have a specific plan for holiday spending, you might be getting ready to enter the New Year with a budget that’s completely out of whack and a bank account that isn’t as hefty as it was a few months back.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent a whopping $626.1 billion during their holiday shopping in 2015. And, according to PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook, which was published in October, consumers planned to spend 10% more this year.
While this may mean people can afford more because of our improved economy, it doesn’t mean we can afford to shop like this all year round. That is why getting back on track after the holidays is not only important, but for the majority of Americans, it’s crucial to starting 2017 off financially healthy and maintaining that financial wellness throughout the year.
So, how can you get back on track? Here are some tips.
No more time off. Jump right back in. You could also say this about getting back to healthy eating after the holidays, which is why budgeting is just like dieting. The holidays are a time of the year when you may believe that calories no longer exist and sometimes neither do price tags. Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the holidays are over and it’s time to change your mindset. The last thing you want to do is carry any bad splurging habits into the New Year.
Don’t look back. You may think about evaluating every little penny you spent during your holiday shopping to see how much damage was actually done. While it may make you more aware, it could also just make you sad and guilty. You may think you only spent $500, but add it all together and it could come out to $1,500. That won’t do anything to help you move forward, and you might just want to crawl in a hole and wrap yourself up in buyer’s remorse. What’s done is done. Just look at what you have now and do your best with that. However, if you used a credit card for any of your shopping, it would be beneficial to assess your usage and see how much debt you have accumulated. That way you can come up with a plan now to tackle that credit card debt. Stay tuned for the sixth tip!
Make it a priority to save more. Unless you were proactive and set up a savings account just for holiday shopping, chances are your primary savings account took a hit with all your spending. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t build it back up. Over the next few months, make savings more of a priority than it was before. Set up automatic transfers so you have money constantly going into your savings account. If you already have a certain amount you put into your savings account every week, increase that amount by whatever you can afford. You can also check out some of our articles dedicated to saving money, such as My Favorite Ways to Save Money Effortlessly and 9 Easy Tips To Save Money.
Only buy items that you absolutely need. During holiday shopping, you were buying your essential living items on top of gifts for friends and family, materials to wrap those gifts,
decorations, food for holiday dinners, and probably a few extra treats for yourself here and there. A good tip for recovery is to kick the discipline into high gear and only buy your essential items for the next month or so. If you don’t absolutely need something, and only simply want it, put it back and walk away. If you still want it when you feel you’re back on track, you can buy it then.
Track your spending a little more carefully. This tip is along the same lines as the previous one. When you were holiday shopping, you may have found the perfect gift for a loved one and just had to get it without really taking the price into consideration. This might have been OK then, but now you should be extra cautious of how much money you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. Use a notebook or the notepad app or excel spreadsheet on your phone to jot down your spending. Every effort to manage your spending now will help you recover from those holiday shopping splurges.
Pay off your credit card balance. You may have had to use your credit card for some, most or all of your holiday shopping. This may have resulted in a credit card balance you’re not used to having. If you can afford to pay the balance in full by the due date, that’s great. But, if you can’t, you may have to come up with a plan to pay off that balance in a timely manner and without incurring tons of interest. You definitely don’t want to still be paying for this year’s holiday purchases during next year’s shopping season.
Here are some tips for paying off holiday credit card debt:
- Add a credit card payment into your budget. If you have a certain balance that needs to be paid off, establish a
set amount in your monthly budget that will allow you to pay off your balance by a specific date. Just like you would for a savings plan
- At the very least, make a timely minimum payment. The last thing you want is to pile late fees onto interest.
- Put any extra money you have towards your credit card balance. You could have just made a payment yesterday, but then realize you have $10 extra dollars in your account this month. Instead of taking that $10 and buying a coffee or something else, put it towards your credit card balance. Everything helps!
- If you’re following tip number three and trying to put extra money into your savings, but you’re also paying off your credit card, make an effort to pay your credit card debt first. Although you will earn dividends on your savings account, the amount of interest you will incur on your credit card balance will always be higher. You might have to wait to boost your savings, but it’s beneficial to you because you will end up paying less interest in the long run. And less money spent will mean more money saved. If you still want to make sure something is going into your savings account, pay more than the minimum monthly payment on your credit card, and put a small amount into your savings account. You can even do this every other month, where one month you make a payment higher than the minimum and put a little into savings, and the next month put it all towards your credit card balance. Either way, it’s best to pay off any debt and the interest that comes with it.
Devise a plan for next year. If you’re feeling a bit of remorse over your shopping behavior this year, the good news is that you don’t have to feel this way again. Come up with a plan for your
holiday spending next year. Create a savings account just for holiday shopping and start growing those funds now. Next year, take out a certain amount of cash and only use that for your entire shopping excursion or come up with a specific budget just for holiday shopping. You can event start shopping now so you’re not forking up loads of money all at once. Whatever works for you!
Do you have any tips for getting back on track? Let us know in the comments section below or email us at TheMoneyMill@jdcu.com.