One of the best ways to have a better holiday season is to make it an easier one: plan a little more, buy a little less and carve out some personal time. Follow these five simple steps to make this holiday season a piece of cake—or pie:
1. Set a savings goal early.
Experts recommend spending no more than 1.5 percent of your annual pay on holiday expenses. Calculate what that means for your holiday budget, and then set up automatic transfers to save a little each month to keep end-of-the-year spending stress-free.
2. Budget your time.
Calendars tend to fill up quickly during the holiday season, with neighborhood parties, school events and family get-togethers. Schedule time for shopping so you don’t overspend in the final hour in a rush to get everything done.
3. Make a gift list and check it twice.
Before heading to the store or shopping online, write down who you’re buying for and what you’re giving—and stick to it. Planning your purchases can help you steer clear of impulse buys and shift time spent browsing the aisles to time spent with family and friends.
4. Switch your shopping strategy.
Skip the chaos—and expense—of the mall parking lot and food court and do your shopping online. Browsing gifts online makes it easy to comparison shop quickly, and bundling your purchases into one shipment saves on fees.
5. Make donations meaningful.
Donating to a worthy cause is a great way to celebrate the holidays, but you don’t have to empty your wallet to make a difference. Collect canned goods or gently worn clothing for charities, or volunteer your time to make the season meaningful within your means.