It’s September, which means it’s time to get your finances prepared for the upcoming holidays. Does it seem too early to you? Well, in reality, it’s never too early to start setting aside money for the holiday season, especially if you’re in a financial crunch like so many Americans are this year. Rather than wait until the last minute to start your shopping (like you do every year) begin preparing your finances now and see what a difference it makes for you this holiday season.
Start Your Countdown Before Halloween
The first step in getting your personal finances ready for the holidays is to begin prepping sooner than you have in the past. The traditional countdown for holiday shopping starts the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, when all of the stores begin offering their monster Black Friday sales.
While this may be the norm for you, it only gives you fewer than 30 days to shop. Instead of waiting to get started like everyone else, you could make it a new tradition to start your holiday countdown before Halloween along with the many retailers that begin offering deals as early as July.
During this time, you could start coming up with great Christmas gift ideas and take advantage of online shopping specials. With at least 30 extra shopping days to use, you’d have a serious leg up on your competition.
Gauge Your Income and Start Saving Early
Another great way to prepare your finances for the holiday season is to evaluate your available income and start saving as soon as possible. For instance, if you know that your office gets slow during the end of the year, you could plan to find a part-time job now to fill in the income gaps.
Also, it’s a good idea to open a holiday savings account now and start setting money aside for holiday gifts. While you may assume that your income will be unchanged in the coming months, the recession serves as a reminder that anything is possible on the job front, which is why it is best be prepared for the unexpected.
Take a Good Look at Your Spending Plans
Many people take Christmas gifts into account when planning their spending for the holidays, but forget that they may want to entertain their friends or travel to visit loved ones. If you know that either option is possible, start creating a spending plans now.
If you’re entertaining family and friends, it’s good to set up a budget that acknowledges the food, music, decorations, games and extras (paper plates, napkins, trash bags, etc.) you’ll need. Also, if you plan to have house guests, you want to plan for higher energy costs, gas to drive them around and other in-town entertainment that you may be held accountable for.
On the other hand, if you want to travel out of town, it’s important to think about travel costs (for a flight, train, bus or car), emergency funds, food expenses and the extras for the trip like games, snacks, extra diapers, etc.
Try Not to Finish Shopping Too Soon
While preparing your entertainment and travel budgets for the holidays early is a great idea, it’s good to save a little shopping for later in the season. You could get most of the items you know your family wants early, but you might find that you could save extra money by waiting until the after Thanksgiving Day sale when retailers really lower their prices.
By taking time to plan your finances now and even getting some of your shopping done, you should find that your 2010 holiday season flows smoother than ever before.