How to Budget and Save After the Holiday Season

Holiday magic fades quickly once presents are opened and those bills begin to roll in. If seasonal spending has sabotaged your finances, you’re not alone. A recent survey by Kelton Research found that 66% of Americans don’t to stick to their holiday budgets. However, the damage doesn’t have to be permanent. These tips can help you take back financial control.

Cut Spending

To avoid making a bad situation worse, eliminate unnecessary spending and cut back expenses wherever possible for the next few months. Here are some ways to do this without feeling deprived:

  • Snuggle up for home movie nights instead of spending on theater tickets.
  • Buy fresh ingredients rather than more expensive prepared foods and create home-cooked candlelight feasts.
  • Cook large portions so delicious leftovers will always be available and you won’t be tempted to buy ready-made meals when you’re tired and hungry.
  • Raid the pantry for forgotten nonperishable foods and ask friends to do the same. Then use these ingredients for a fun potluck dinner party.
  • Explore free or low-cost concerts, plays, sporting events and educational programs at local high schools, colleges and libraries.
  • Eliminate unnecessary expenses such as paying monthly maintenance fees on your checking account. Financial institutions like Radius Bank can save you money with no-fee checking that also offers rebates on ATM fees.

Reduce credit card debt

Shore up your finances by paying off high interest credit card balances as soon as possible. To avoid the chance of increasing this debt further, put credit cards away for a while and instead shop with cash or debit cards. Meanwhile, pay as much of your balance as possible each month.

Get on budget

A budget is one of the best tools for cleaning up the consequences of seasonal overspending and keeping future finances under control. Start by subtracting monthly expenses from total monthly income to see what you’re working with. Then set some goals, such as reducing post-holiday debt, and put a set amount toward each one regularly.

Raise extra cash and save it

When there aren’t enough surplus funds in your budget to make up for holiday excesses, bring in some quick cash to close that gap. Consider selling household items you no longer need by having a yard sale or posting them on sites like eBay or Craigslist. You may also want to earn additional income by requesting overtime at work, providing services such as tutoring, babysitting or music lessons, or taking a temporary part-time second job.

Start planning for next year

Right now you may be groaning “never again,” but if you don’t plan ahead, you’ll likely find yourself in exactly the same place 12 months from now. Improve the future today by budgeting for next year’s holidays as well as for general savings.

It’s helpful to open a separate high-yield savings account now for next year’s holiday expenses. As your holiday account grows, you may even want to spread out costs by watching for sales and purchasing gifts months in advance.

The combination of just a little discipline, creativity and planning can revive your finances in a matter of months. The best part is, if you stick with your plan, you should never have to deal with another holiday spending hangover.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet

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