Get ahead: Holiday survival tips for your wallet

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To avoid a major holiday hangover for your budget, the key is to start early and plan ahead. The more prepared you are for the holiday spending deluge, the better off your finances will be after the holidays are behind us.

Travel plans, parties and gifts can leave a person’s wallet empty during the hectic holiday season, that’s why taking the time to prepare in advance is crucial. The first step is to make sure your budget is under control, so you know exactly how much discretionary cash you have to spend during the holiday months.

It’s also smart to set aside money throughout the year in a designated holiday fund. If you can, make deposits automated, so you don’t have to think about it and to ensure you contribute! If at any point during the year you receive some extra cash, put that towards your fund.

Don’t overuse credit cards. Store credit cards seem appealing because they have rewards, but they normally have the highest interest rates. If you must open a store card, make sure it’s a worthwhile purchase and pay off the balance as soon as possible. Create a payment plan for yourself if you can’t pay off the card in a lump sum. Your credit score can be negatively impacted by multiple store cards carrying balances.

When making holiday travel plans, book as early as possible. Waiting until the last minute will inevitably make your trip more expensive. Utilize travel sites often. Use Kayak.com to compare flight prices from multiple carriers to find the least expensive. Don’t forget to take advantage of rewards you’ve accumulated and if you have to use credit cards, see if you can find one that offers travel rewards to use around the expensive holiday travel season.

Gifting is a huge part of the holiday season, but can also be a huge strain on budgets. Start with a list of who you plan to buy presents for and how much you’re able to spend on each. Limiting yourself will prevent overspending during the shopping rush. Also, planning ahead will allow you to wait for sales, find coupons, price shop and consider DIY gifts. Websites like Pinterest offer great ideas and family members often appreciate homemade gifts with a personal touch. Parents of millennials know what it’s like to be cash-strapped and a personalized present is much more meaningful.

Ultimately, by planning ahead you can avoid the temptation to spend more money last-minute when you’re facing a time crunch. When you have money set aside for the season and give yourself ample time to look for deals and make creative, inexpensive gifts, the more enjoyable and stress-free your holidays will be.