Tag Archives: holiday spending

Tracking Holiday Spending Keeps Seasonal Stress Down

The holiday season is upon us, and this year will be very … different. But we’ve got plenty of ways for you to enjoy the season while on a budget.

Nothing is more heartwarming than seeing your loved ones’ faces light up when they open that perfect gift you (err, Santa) gave them.

Tyler’s new bike, Olivia’s new tablet and that gift card to mom and dad’s favorite steak place all add up to wonderful holiday memories… until the credit card statements show up.

The holidays will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why most people will try even harder to make the season brighter for others. But, you don’t have to dip into Tyler and Olivia’s college savings to create a special time for everyone!

The most important thing to remember is to plan ahead: Have a set spending amount for gifts, wrap, entertaining, donations and travel.

Make a list and check it twice

Many are struggling financially this year, so it will be no surprise to those outside your family if your gift-recipient list is shorter this year. Once you trim your list, make those who got the cut a holiday treat or handmade token. It really IS the thought that counts.

Once you have your list complete, figure out a realistic amount to spend on each person. Jot down a couple of gift ideas in your price range for that person.

Try our Money Management tool in Online and Mobile Banking to keep your spending in check. You can use it to track regular monthly budgeting and spending, and it will help you to make sound decisions when it comes to holiday purchases.

Shopping

Due to the pandemic, holiday shopping is already in full swing. Most people want to avoid crowds, so they are already hitting the malls. Retailers are well aware of this trend, and are offering pre-Black Friday sales and discounts.

Spreading out your holiday shopping over several weeks also makes it easier on your budget. Always shop with a list and keep track of your spending. As you buy your gifts, subtract from your total budget.

In addition to shopping the sales and collecting coupon codes for online purchases, know when to buy. December is the best time to buy cars, appliances, winter clothing and electronics. Also, know how much items cost before a markdown to know if you’re really getting a deal.

It is expected that online shopping will increase by 35% this year because shoppers don’t feel comfortable being in stores. Some states still have restrictions limiting retail establishments’ capacity and store hours.

If you’re shopping online, order early and expect delays in shipping. Increased shopping during the holidays will affect already-strained delivery companies. To avoid shipping delays and higher shipping costs, shop at stores that offer “buy online, ship to store” service. This service is free at most retailers, some of which offer curbside pickup.

Get the best deals on cards, decorations and gift wrap during the days right before and after Christmas. Discounts of up to 75% off can shave a lot off your holiday budget for next year.

Entertaining

Still reeling from the pandemic, most folks will host smaller holiday gatherings this year, which will save tons on food, treats and adult beverages. Many people are still working from home, so work parties and gift exchanges also will be virtual or postponed, keeping cash in your wallet.

If you’re hosting guests, keep costs down by asking everyone to bring their favorite side or dessert and include festive recipe cards with the chef’s name.

For the adults, serve a warm mulled wine or holiday punch or make one festive signature cocktail.

Use DIY decor featuring natural items, like holly and pine cones. Gather the kids and go on a hike to find outdoor holiday decorations. Not only will it save you money, but it will also give you some stress-free outdoor time with your family.

Save more by partying without plastic. Disposable plates and dinnerware are not great for the environment or your budget.

Travel

If you must travel home for the holidays, don’t forget to figure in other incidentals beyond gasoline and the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re traveling by car, gas prices have luckily seen a steady dip. Still, the GasBuddy app can help you find the best prices for gasoline wherever you are, and you can even pay from the app. Don’t forget to figure in tolls and any emergency costs that may come up.

If you’re flying, consider baggage fees, parking and shuttle costs and the expense of ground transportation once you arrive.

And don’t forget Fluffy! You’ll need to pay someone to take care of your furry friends. The Rover app can help you find pet care options near your home.

Charitable giving

The holidays are a time for goodwill toward all. But if your budget cannot accommodate a monetary donation, volunteer your time. If you are able to make a financial donation, be sure to check that the charity you are supporting is legitimate by consulting Charity Navigator.

Keep your holidays dollars in check, and you may have some holiday spirit left over even after the last elf is packed away and the January bills start rolling in.


We at USAgencies Credit Union wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.

Save Money This Holiday Season with These DIY Gift Hacks

Love the holidays but hate the Santa sticker shock that follows? No need to spend your way into debt this Christmas. Keep costs down and make the holidays more meaningful by gifting your loved ones with personalized homemade presents. From pamper-me packages crafted with care, to home décor that costs just a few dollars, to home-baked goodies that say “I love you,” the sky’s the limit when you DIY! Here are 13 homemade gift ideas from across the cyber-verse to get you started.

Sugar cookie sack

Everyone loves pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven, but who wants to bother with measuring and mixing all those ingredients? Make it easy for your loved one with this adorable sack of sugar-cookie mix. Decorate the sack to make it personal, and you’ll have a heartwarming gift costing less than $10.

Fleece blanket

Help your friends and family gear up for winter with a cozy fleece blanket. If you’re handy with a needle, you can design a deluxe version of this fuzzy piece of heaven; otherwise, keep it simple, sweet and oh, so cheap.

Pedicure kit

Has your friend been pining for a pedicure? Gift them with all they need to make their nails sparkle with a “for your mistletoes” nail kit. Fill a $7 Mason jar with polishes, filers, a buffer and everything else they need for a spa-at-home experience.

Wall clock

Dress up a flat circle of wood with some beautiful material, attach a clock kit and voila — homemade designer décor for just a few dollars! This clock makes the perfect gift for the friend who’s just moved into a new home or dorm room. Learn how to make your wall clock here.

Bubble bath gift set

Who doesn’t love a relaxing bubble bath? This gift makes it possible with a complete bubble bath kit, including chocolate, bath salts, a candle, soaps, a pouf and more. Learn how to create your own at Sugar and Charm.

Instagram picture frame

Round up your friend’s best Instagram snaps of the year with this creative desktop frame. This gift will make them smile all year long.

Infused vodkas

Flavor your own vodkas and give your friends a unique gift they’ll enjoy for days to come. Choose between classic flavors or experiment with brave new ideas, like spicy citrus and cucumber tarragon. Get the tutorial for infused booze here.

Money tree

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees? Give the gift of cash with an adorable holiday-themed presentation by rolling up stacks of bills into tree boughs. Learn how here.

Recipe box

This one is for the friend who dreams of starring on “Chopped.” Fill this personalized, decorated recipe box with their own best recipes and add a few new gems for their collection. They’ll think of you every time they cook up another storm. Check out Club Crafted to get the full tutorial.

Snowball bath bombs

Bath time is fun again with these peppermint-infused bath bombs! Package inside plastic ornaments for a real holiday treat.

Rainbow candles

We’re all spending more time at home these days, and what better way to light up a cold winter evening than with these gorgeous rainbow candles. All you need for these eye-catching creations is a bit of time and some old crayons.

Painted picture frames

Dress up dollar-store picture frames with colored chalk paint for the perfectly memorable gift. Learn how at Make Your Mark.

Reindeer gift card holder

This holiday-themed card holder is the perfect present for that friend who owns a collection of gift cards and needs a place to keep them safe. You can also use it to dress up a gift card and make it more personal. It’s made out of leftover toilet paper rolls and basic craft materials you likely already have at home.

Keep the stress out of the holidays this year with our DIY gift hacks. It’s all the shared love with none of the debt. Plus, creating these gifts will keep you busy as you ride out a quarantine or avoid crowded malls during these pandemic times. Who knew holiday gifts could be so much fun?


What’s your favorite DIY gift hack?

Resources:

A Five-Step Spending Plan to Avoid Holiday Debt

The holidays can put a financial burden even on the savviest of shoppers and savers. But like most things, taking time to plan can help you avoid the stress that comes with overspending. Before you hit the mall , keep reading to learn how to make a holiday spending plan that works for you.

1.Set a budget

First, make sure you account for all of your typical expenses so that you don’t come up short on bills or things like rent. Next, think about what else you may be spending on in the coming months. Are you hosting a party at your home, or traveling to visit family or friends? If so, estimate what those things will cost you. Once you’ve subtracted any expenses from your usual budget, you can think about how much you have to spend on gifts. It’s best to start planning this as early as possible. That way you can look at how much you’ll earn between now and the holidays and calculate how much you can save to cover your holiday spending. Being realistic about your budget will help make sure you don’t overspend.

2.Make a list ( and check it twice! )

With all of the excitement of the holidays, it can be easy to get carried away. Make a list of the gifts you need and cross them off as you go. Check your list several times before you go shopping so that you don’t leave anything off. This is when a personal rule may come in handy.  You might set a personal rule for yourself, such as: If something isn’t on your list, don’t buy it. This can get difficult when you see sales and deals pop up—but spending on something you don’t really need can make it difficult to pay for the things you do.

3.Get creative

There may be ways to give a meaningful gift at a fraction of the cost as buying something from a store. This may not work for everyone on your list, but here are some low-cost suggestions :

  • Homemade mixes in a mason jar, such as hot chocolate, bean soup, or cookie mixes
  • You favorite recipes with photos in a custom picture book
  • Knit or crochet scarves, socks or gloves.

4.Decide how you are going to pay

Are you going to use cash or credit cards to pay for gifts? A helpful rule to set for yourself is to only bring the amount of money you plan to spend. That way you can help yourself stay within your budget because once you spend the money you brought, you’re done. On the other hand, using a credit card, like our VISA Platinum Rewards, can put money in your pocket by earning you points for your purchased.  If you do decide buy your holiday gifts with a credit card, make sure you have a specific plan to pay your credit card bill and have set aside enough in your budget to do so.

5.Track your holiday spending

Just like you wrote down your lists to keep track of what you need to buy, you could also keep track of what you’ve spent. Periodically check to see if you are on track and sticking to your budget. Did you spend more or less than you thought you would on certain items? If you don’t keep track of what you spent, you could end up with an unpleasant surprise if you exceed your budget.


Check out our Money Management tool for all your budgeting needs. Questions? Connect with us 503-275-0300 Option 4 or visit our branch on the corner of  1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland!

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