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Let's stop pretending that being good at money means you need to be good at math. Instead, let's listen to our body and our mind.
It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of buying gifts for loved ones and going all out with decorations and events every holiday season. But like most everything this year, 2020 has made us rethink most of our time-honoured traditions and explore new opportunities that are less active and less complicated.
Although we might not be having our typical office parties and big family events, it doesn’t mean anyone is less interested in buying presents and spreading cheer in safer ways. In fact, it might mean there’s even more emphasis on celebrating that way. Personally, my family and I had organized our gift exchange much earlier than usual because we are eagerly looking forward to the next event. Without travel and our everyday routines, we are hopeful that spreading holiday cheer to our young family members will make this year feel just like any other.
The difference? We are cutting back on our budgets. Keeping in mind that the real value of gift-giving is about showing the people we share our lives with that we care about, not necessarily the things themselves. It’s about finding ways to continue to spread the joy while still feeling confident that we aren’t overspending.
This year I am all about finding the ideal number and avoiding going overboard (which is usually what happens when I do any Christmas shopping). So, to help you create the perfect budget for Christmas presents, here is my four-step plan that you can quickly try yourself.
When you set any budget, it’s essential to be clear with what types of items you need to buy and approximately how much they cost. When developing a holiday budget, the first thing I do is create a list that includes each person I have to shop for. Don’t forget to include any additional holiday purchases, such as home decor, socially-distanced events you may be hosting, and local businesses you’d like to support.
Once I have my list in place, I look at how much I spent in the previous year. This is a great way to get a benchmark if you’ve never made a Christmas budget before. When I have rough numbers, I get serious about how much I can afford to spend this year. If there are no set budgets from family or friends, I set my own and research to find gifts that make the limit. You don’t need to spend a lot of money (or as much as you have in previous years) for it to be a meaningful gift.
While budgets being a bit tighter and 2020 being so unique that many of us might not get out to the stores, it can be tempting to use credit to pay for everything while shopping online. That wasn’t going to fly for me. Instead, I decided to use the Brightside app as a tool for budgeting for everything I need to stay on track financially. Brightside connects to your existing bank accounts, so I easily transferred over the exact amount of money I plan to spend on gifts this year into my Brightside spend bucket.
The Brightside Spend Card allows me to shop online with unlimited transactions (for free). Since it’s pulling directly from your bucket, you’re spending your own money (like debit) but you get cash back on purchases. Plus, there’s no risk of going into debt like you would with a credit card. It also notifies me each time I make a purchase, and I can check the app at any time to see how much money is left to spend. Using Brightside helps me stay in control of my spending habits and resist the temptation to add on a last-minute item while shopping online.
Unfortunately, time doesn’t stop just because it’s the holidays. It can be stressful to manage your daily budget alongside your holiday spending. I like to use Brightside to save for any other financial goals that I have in the works. Brightside allows you to open up to 10 buckets (like checking or saving accounts, but free). You can customize them by naming them and move money in and out to help you save for specific goals.
Because, yes, I’m still trying to save money as I’m spending. Brightside has another cool feature called Round Ups so that as I’m doing my holiday shopping, I’m still able to stash away a bit of extra money towards my other goals. Small change adds up! Bills still need to be paid, and money still needs to be put aside for emergencies.
Now that you are organized, have a set budget, and a plan to stay on track with your expenses, the best thing to do as a consumer is to practice patience and intentional spending. There’s no point in buying things just because you feel like you have to. Buy them with intention. Purchase more meaningful things, like shopping from local small businesses and venues. A tactic to reduce spending is to look at your Christmas list and consider low-cost or, better yet, free options to satisfy your desire to give gifts to those who aren’t as close to you.
Take advantage of upcoming sales (like Black Friday and Cyber Monday). If you aren’t sure you’ll remember to consistently check, earmark the products you have an eye on using Google so that you can receive notifications any time there is a price drop.
Just because we might have to keep our wallets a bit closer to our chest this year, doesn’t mean we can’t continue to spread the cheer without the stress of overspending. Brightside can help you avoid trying to finagle an Excel spreadsheet in the middle of the mall while the breath from your mask fogs up your glasses, and simply check the app to see how much money you have left to spend. Even better, they help you save while you do (inevitably) spend.
You can download Brightside in less than 10 seconds and get started all from your phone!
This post was sponsored by Brightside, but all personal thoughts and opinions throughout this blog post are my own. I am not an affiliate with Brightside, but instead, I am sharing this information because I genuinely use and love this app.
Oh no, you missed the live webinar! But, good news: Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a resource for anyone planning for a future child or family.
Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone looking to cut back on non-essential spending. My most-requested product is these monthly calendars to share on your Instagram story, use as a phone background, or print off to track your spending habits.