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By Maggie Tomasek
Early in the year, many of us experience a holiday season hangover from too much eating, imbibing and spending. As your holiday credit card bills start to come due, it’s actually the perfect time to assess your holiday spending and use that information to make a holiday budget for next year. Plus, making a holiday budget now can help you avoid overspending during the holiday season and make things that much easier when November and December roll around.
While it’s fresh in your mind, make a list of your recent holiday expenditures, including gifts, cards, wrapping paper, travel, charitable donations, party supplies and decorations. Don’t forget about other “hidden” holiday expenses, like a new outfit for your fancy company party or postage and shipping costs. Then, add up how much you spent on each category and also calculate your total holiday expenses. You can get even more specific and add up how much you spent on each person’s gifts or donations for each individual charity.
Before you start making a holiday budget for next year, truly assess your recent holiday spending. Are you happy with how much you spent on decorations, or did you go a little too Clark Griswold? Did your gift-giving generosity put you in too much debt to start the new year? Be honest with yourself and think about how holiday spending fits into your overall financial goals.
While you’re at it, review your credit report. Fraud attempts are even more rampant during the holiday season, so it’s extra important to be vigilant. If you see any errors, contact the credit bureau to get them fixed as soon as possible.
If you’re happy with your recent holiday spending, making a holiday budget for next year will be a snap. Just take your total expenditures, divide that number by 12, and that will tell you how much money you need to save each month to be on target for next holiday season.
However, there might be more to it than that. Consider your upcoming life expenses to determine how much money you should set aside for the holidays. For example, if you’re budgeting for a wedding or planning major home renovations, maybe you’ll need to rein in your holiday spending a little more this year.
Once you have your holiday budget locked in, open a savings account dedicated to your goal. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account into your holiday savings account. That way, you can “set it and forget it,” while also earning interest, so you’ll be ready to rock come Black Friday.
Taking stock of your recent holiday spending and making a holiday budget will help ensure that come next holiday season, your bank account isn’t depleted and that you have a game plan before you go on that holiday shopping spree.
Maggie Tomasek is the Social Media & PR Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is an eight-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.