Track your spending and it won't get out of hand.
The holidays are filled with cheer, but the dent they can make in your budget might leave you less than joyous. Holiday spending racks up fast, and you could find yourself paying for it throughout the coming year.
Gift buying, decorating, cooking lavish meals, and throwing parties all cost money, so you need to prepare well in advance. With a good strategy going in, the New Year will find your budget, and your peace of mind, intact.
Track Everything You Spend
During the holidays, every penny counts. It seems that each day, there's a new reason to head out and buy something. Whether it's a gift for an exchange that you weren't expecting, a carton of milk for a recipe, or a replacement bulb for the string of lights that burned out five minutes after plugging them in, money can flow out faster during the holidays than any other time of year. All those little trips to the store add up.
Track your spending, and you'll never have to worry about whether an extra pumpkin pie will determine if you can also afford the turkey. Mobile budget apps, such as Mint.com, let you track spending whether you're writing a check, paying cash, or using a debit card. Mint also lets you know when an account gets low, and if the holiday whirlwind has caused you to forget about an important bill.
Make holiday budgeting a family affair.
Share Tracking Responsibility
One of the beauties of Mint's mobile app is that it's not restricted to one device. In fact, it's not restricted to any mobile device. Everything in your budget is visible using the software on your home computer, your spouse's tablet, and your smartphone and the information is updated continually.
When you buy a spool of green ribbon, the budget on your spouse's phone reveals that purchase. While this is certainly a great way to avoid overspending, the Season of Secrets means you might not want to share every little detail. In those cases, you can outsmart curious eyes by paying cash and enter the dollar amount without giving away anything.
Avoid Credit and Have a Truly Happy New Year
Credit cards sink a lot of budgets through the holidays. It's logical, of course. You want to provide the very best for your friends and family, and credit lets you expand your buying power. The trouble is that those purchases come home to roost in just a few short weeks, and you could end up paying for them plus interest over the course of months.
For a happier round of holidays, think about a good old fashioned Christmas Club savings account if your bank still offers them. You can save, and you can't withdraw the money early without incurring a penalty. Christmas club accounts are short-term (one-year) savings accounts, and they don't earn enough interest to make that part of the appeal. The real benefit is that they protect your money from you, and they keep it safe until you need it for the next holiday season.
Keep the holidays happier by planning early and sticking to it. With budget software, it's easier than ever. By the time the weather cools, you'll be thankful instead of fearful of the spending yet to come.
Sign up for a Mint.com account today and prepare for holidays with a lot less stress.