Tips for Staying Within Your Holiday Budget

The holiday shopping season is upon us. How do you make sure you get the most bang for your buck?

Black Enterprise chatted with Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial about tips on staying within budget.

Here’s some of her advice.

1) Shop throughout the year. It’s tempting to do all of your shopping at once, but it’s not the best approach, especially if you’re looking for holiday deals.

“Earlier is usually better when it comes to holiday shopping. The most effective approach may be to shop throughout the year for holiday gifts. This may allow you to give more unique gifts and spread your gift budget out over the course of the year rather than setting aside a large sum during the holidays,” Says de Baca.

2) Seek post-Black Friday deals. de Baca recommends avoiding the Black Friday frenzy.

“Head out during one of the first few weeks after Thanksgiving, when store inventories are more stable—or better yet, do your shopping a few weeks in advance when prices aren’t yet inflated. Many stores will offer price adjustments if you’ve purchased items at a higher price within 14 days,” advises de Baca.

3) Be smart about online shopping. Purchasing items from the comfort of your home makes shopping quick and easy. However, this could spell big trouble for your wallet—and your identity. Says de Baca, “It can be tempting to take advantage of last-minute online sales. It’s even easier to lose track of how much money is going out the door when the items you’re purchasing are intangible and a transaction is as easy as the click of a mouse. Shopping online, especially during high-traffic times like the holiday season, can also expose you to more risk for identity theft. If you’re an online shopper, be sure you’re protecting yourself by being conscious of the legitimacy of the sites you’re entering your credit card information into and regularly checking your bank statements.”

4) Beware of common budget busters. The number one budget buster is–you guessed it–not having a budget. Start by determining how much you can afford to spend and then commit to sticking with that number. At the very least, jot down purchases on a notepad or Excel spreadsheet so you can keep track of your spending. de Baca emphasizes the importance of developing basic budgeting skills.

“The task of creating a budget can appear daunting, but the most important part of sticking to a budget is coming up with one. If you don’t have a guide for spending, you are much more likely to buy items on impulse and spend more than you can afford.”