Finding the Funds for the Holidays

The following post comes from the Military Saves blog. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

By Alecia D. Blair, Military Saves Communications Associate

With less than two months to go before Christmas, the average American family is estimated to spend around $804 this holiday season, according to the National Retail Association. That’s up five percent from 2013. How will you pay for this holiday season without relying on credit cards and going into debt? Here are some ideas to find the funds for the holidays and enjoy this season of giving.

Set a Budget, Save Ahead

Create a budget for the holidays, and do your best to stick to it. To create your budget, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), make an itemized list of everyone you wish to buy presents for and how much you plan to spend. Factor in everything—holiday cards, entertainment, decorations, holiday travel and charitable donations. Once you’ve made your list, check it twice against your income and regular monthly expenses to find out how much you really can afford.

Consider saving early for next year by taking this year’s budget, dividing it up and saving a set amount each month automatically. While there are only a couple of shopping months left this year, there’s still some time to squirrel away money. However you do it, make this the year you plan.

Set Expectations

Now’s the time to speak with your family and friends about realistic holiday spending. After all, the true meaning of the holidays isn’t about spending too much money! If your family is large, perhaps it’s time to think about starting new, fun gift giving traditions, such as a gift exchange. If you’re crafty, consider giving homemade gifts this year. The ideas on Pinterest are endless.

Hold the Joe, Brown Bag It

According to a recent Accounting Principals Workonomix Survey, “half of the American workforce buys coffee regularly at work, spending more than $20 a week on coffee, an average of approximately $1,000 a year.” What’s worse, 66 percent of Americans prefer to buy their lunch instead of brown bagging it at an average cost of $37 a week or $2,000 a year. Cutting back on these indulgences alone is enough to more than cover the cost of the holidays, and perhaps add some money to your emergency fund.

Pass on the Entertainment

In 2013, Americans spent an average of $2,400 on entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics. Rather than going to see the latest movie at the cinema, stay in and watch one of the many holiday shows on this time of year, or check out your installation’s theater for their movies, which are offered for a fraction of the cost.

To fill up your weekends, visit your installation’s Morale Recreation & Welfare (MWR) website for a listing of free, inexpensive or discounted entertainment options for the whole family. Make sure to put the money you would have spent on these luxuries back in your wallet for the holidays.

Seek Military Discounts, Coupons & Sales

Many stores, restaurants and entertainment venues offer military discounts to active duty service members. Wherever you go, ask if a military discount is offered. You might just be surprise at how much the savings add up—that’s money you can save to pay for other things this holiday season.

When it comes to purchasing food and other items, always look for sales and coupons, especially for those at your installation’s commissary and exchange. If you’re disciplined, another savings strategy is to shop a little at a time throughout the year to take advantage of sales as you see them!

Find Money in Your Closet

How long has it been since you’ve cleaned out your closets or your children’s toy bins? Make it a regular habit to purge what you haven’t used in the past six months and consign it at your installation thrift shop. Consigning these items is a great way to rid your home of clutter, make room for new holiday gifts and put money back in your wallet. Find a thrift store near you!

There’s no time like now to put the fun back in funding the season of giving. Set a goal. Make a plan. Save automatically.