Ask The Expert: Saving During the Holidays, November 2- November 13, 2020.
Do you want to get great advice on how to control your budget during the holidays?
Our expert, Martin Booker will be here answering your questions and showing you how to save during the holidays including how to find small ways to save and why saving is important!
Martin will be answering your questions from Monday, November 2 - Friday, November 13, 2020 here. Feel free to post your questions early!
Martin Booker is a member of AARP’s financial resilience team, leading financial education initiatives focused on social security, budgeting and investing. Before joining AARP, Martin worked in the non-profit sector where he developed a passion for helping people improve their money habits. He has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut and earned a Certificate in Financial Planning at Georgetown University.
I'm so excited about having this conversation! Right now is a good time to look ahead and plan your expenses based on your income. I look forward to sharing tips and tricks all week on how to control your budget during the holidays. Your first tips as follows:
Make a list of every event and cost associated for the remainder of the holiday season. One time expenses tend to be one of the biggest budget busters for people. A one-time expense list is a helpful resource to merge into your budget.
Great point @2Papa ! Which could lead to another point:
While the holidays will lack travel and big gatherings due to the pandemic, we have to be careful to not overcompensate with gift giving. In many cases, we may try to go above and beyond, because we can't physically see our loved ones. This is a good time to use the money saved from a flight home to see family, to pay down debt, save money or invest in a child's college savings.
One great thing about the holidays is that they arrive around the same time every year. We can plan our finances ahead of time so that we don't "break the bank" when it's time to celebrate. Some of the costs to consider when we think about the holidays are as follows:
1. Food- Will you be preparing a big meal? How many people will you be feeding? Are you paying for catering? Are you buying dinner for others for a virtual celebration? These factors will determine how much you should set aside for food costs.
2. Gifts- How many gifts will you be purchasing? How much will these gifts cost? Gift giving can be a costly tradition during the holidays. Knowing the approximate costs will help to prepare for the holidays.
3. Events- Although we are in a pandemic, some traditions will be held virtually. These can lead to gift exchanges. Count the number of events that you may be attending and what cost will be associated. There may be a bottle of wine that you're buying to have at home during a virtual event, or an ugly sweater that you have to buy for a socially distanced hangout. Begin thinking about these costs now, to prepare your finances for the holidays.
4. Decorations- For your event, you may be buying themed items, ordering a tree, lights and other festive items. Will they increase your utility costs? How much will you pay for the items? Beyond the expense of what you purchase, some items will have residual costs like an increase in utility bills or storage needs.
These are a few factors to consider while preparing for your holiday budget.
Holidays can become a costly time of year. Here are a few tips on ways to save during the holidays:
Food- If you want to save money, it could be helpful to host a potluck instead of preparing the entire meal. Also, shopping for sales can be helpful to get discounted food items. Be willing to shop around between stores for the best prices as well. When in need, it can also be to your advantage to attend food giveaways for some of your holiday staples.
Gifts- When you receive gifts that you likely won’t use, hold on to them for regifting purposes. Also, be mindful of events through work that will require gift giving (holiday parties with gifting games) and use items that in your regifting pile for these events. Be sure to catch all of the sales when buying items and search for promo codes when making online purchases. Lastly, be aware of gifts that will have a reoccurring expense monthly.
Events- Prioritize events that you must attend. Some of us are really popular during the holidays and get invited to lots of events. Multiple events can lead to new clothing items, food for potlucks, a bottle of wine, gifts and more. So picking and choosing your events can be a helpful way to cut costs this season. Even during a pandemic, these virtual events are causing us to buy an ugly sweater or have a meal ordered from a restaurant. So still be mindful of the costs associated with each event and set a budget on your event spending for the holiday season.
Things to consider before opening an item that could be regifted:
I remember leaving a bluetooth speaker boxed for months following Christmas because I kept saying “I probably won’t use this and I can regift it”. In June of 2020 I began spending much more time outdoors and that speaker has received so much usage. This item that I thought would be the perfect “regift” became a staple in my Summer and Fall of 2020. It took me a long time to open this item because I aim to keep items packaged and ready to be redistributed if I won't use it.
Here are a few things to consider before opening a gift that could be redistributed:
How often will you use this item?
Do you have a similar item?
Will this item resell?
Remember that you can always go back to your “regifting pile” if you have a sudden need for an item like I did with the portable speaker. But keeping them packaged works in your favor for holiday events or other gift giving times like housewarmings, baby showers, birthdays and more.
What other important factors should we consider when deciding between using an item and keeping it packaged?
Gifts that have a reoccurring expense- Giving and getting items that require a subscription or additional purchases can add up and become a financial obligation that someone didn’t expect
Items that you will use once and end up in the back of the closet- These are the perfect items to redistribute instead of opening for single usage. This also goes for single use items like stocking stuffers and decorations. Be sure to reuse these items annually.
Clothing items that you or the receiver won’t wear again- If you’re just picking up an item as a gift, be sure to pick something that matches their style and interest so that you don’t waste your money.
The “filler” gifts- These are the items that you buy just to make the tree look full. In all actuality, these can be the budget busters. The gifts that aren’t really wanted but we want to make sure that there is something to open. It’s a good idea to skip these items and focus on the items that are really desired
Friendsgiving- You will have four thanksgivings before thanksgiving! This year may be more creative where you prepare or order your entire meal and celebrate on videoconference from your home. These events can add up over time and become a costly expense.