The bills now rolling in for the holiday season can be a good incentive to start budgeting for next Christmas, according to a K-State personal financial planning expert.
"Planning next year's holiday budget should start months in advance," said Kristy Archuleta of K-State's Institute of Personal Financial Planning Clinic. "You can start by saving a portion from your paychecks six to 12 months prior to the holidays. This way you can save enough to buy gifts, decor, food, etc., for the holidays without going into debt."
Archuleta said when planning your budget, use what you spent in previous years to help calculate what you will need for the upcoming year.
"Many banks offer Christmas/holiday savings accounts for this purpose," she said. "Another way to save is start your holiday shopping early, watching for sales and doing comparison shopping to get the best quality and best price for your money. Be sure to check sales prices at the store to make sure you are actually buying the item on sale."
Archuleta also recommends talking to your family about ways to save on holiday costs. One option, she said, would be drawing names so that you only have to buy one gift for that family gathering. Set a price range for the gift, too.
"Have fun with your family or at other holiday gatherings by bringing one gift and playing 'Dirty Santa,' where participants draw a number and then pick a gift based on the number they drew," Archuleta said. "Another fun gift-giving idea is to bring a white elephant gift -- a gag gift or used item -- and then play 'Dirty Santa.'"
If paying for gifts with credit cards, Archuleta said to keep in mind the five following tips from the Federal Reserve about shopping with credit cards during the holidays:
* Pay your bill on time each month;
* Stay below your card's credit limit;
* Avoid unnecessary fees, such as for late payments and for going over card limits;
* Always pay more than the minimum payment; and
* Watch for changes in your card's interest rate and other terms.