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Budgeting for the holidays 365 days a year

Mr. CBB is the voice behind the personal finance blog Canadian Budget Binder. He also runs the popular Grocery Game Challenge each week to help those who want to get their grocery budget under control.

Use your budget to get ahead

From SheKnows Canada
Take your budget to a whole new level so you can eliminate creating debt for something you can easily save for. Here are some tips to prepare you to save for the holidays all year-round.

Christmas savings in a piggy bank | Sheknows.ca

If you've ever contemplated using a budget to get your financial health in order, the time is now. It's not as difficult as you might think, and with a few easy steps, you can save money and eliminate stress for the holidays year after year.

Budget

Taking control of your finances and using a budget for the more obvious things in life — such as your mortgage or rent — is fairly straightforward. You know what the cost is every week or month beforehand and adjust your disposable income accordingly. The aim of the game in budgeting your disposable income is to know how much money is left and available to use. Many people, regardless of their income, have money issues, and the holiday seasons in particular can wreak havoc with the family finances. This holiday, forgo the stress, and plan ahead.

Planning ahead

It's inevitable that holidays and special occasions will be part of your life. Managing holiday stress isn't just about planning the decor or choosing a venue; it's about the financial aspect too. Whether it's Halloween, a birthday, Easter, Thanksgiving, a summer vacation and so on, the two most important benefits of planning ahead are the fact that you can save the money before you need it and that you can look for deals to save some cash.

Evaluate what you spent before

A good indicator of how much money you will need to save each month is the previous holiday's expenditure. Armed with facts and figures, you can make a reasonable assumption as to how much you'll need to save. Christmas, for example, is probably the biggest holiday for the masses and also the most expensive. Consider the cost of the dinner, the presents, the tree, alcohol, finger food and any decorations you might need.

Projected expenses

List all the products or services you will need to pay for over the next year. Determine how much you need to save for those each month by taking each cost and dividing it by 12. Some costs might seem insignificant but soon add up to be quite a large total. The figure will enable you to more accurately track what available money you have left to save or spend at the end of the month and reduces surprise costs. By applying the same technique to other occasions — such as birthdays, Halloween and Easter — you can plan ahead and stay away from holiday debt stress.

Avoid debt

How many people cringe when January rolls around after Christmas? It's this time of year when people get depressed about their finances because they failed to take the first step to protect themselves from going into debt for special occasions that will happen every year.

Debt is a scary place for many people, especially when it's debt built around buying "stuff" they really didn't need or didn't plan for. If you want to make the most of your finances, you must take control of them. If you want to eliminate creating further debt, the only way is to budget your money and plan for the future as best you can.

Tips to plan and save:

  • Purchase seasonal paraphernalia after the occasion. Not only is it typically on sale, but it will also result in cost savings for next year's budget. Also consider purchasing items that can be used year after year so you don't have to purchase items each year.
  • Be realistic about what you plan to spend and what you can actually afford so you can plan accordingly. For example, if you have a budget of $500, you will need to save about $42 per month for 12 months. That small amount each month won't seem like such a sacrifice or cause as much stress as the full amount would once your credit card bill comes in January.
  • If you find it difficult to save money each month, consider purchasing one gift a month for your family or friends instead of buying all of them in December.
  • If you do plan to use a credit card, be sure you will be able to pay it off in full at the end of the month. If not, you could end up paying 18 per cent or more in interest every month until next Christmas, when the vicious cycle starts all over again.
  • Sit down as a couple or on your own at the start of the year, and think of your budget and expenditures for the entire year. Re-evaluate and adjust your budget each month to make sure you're still on track.
  • Set financial goals as a family, and make an effort to stick to them. Setting a goal to save for a family vacation at the end of the year might make it easier to say no to those extra purchases throughout the year.

More money-saving tips

6 Surprisingly ways to save money this year
15 Ways couples can budget for a holiday getaway
Tips to teach children to budget

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