89 Days until Christmas: Now is the Time to Prevent a Holiday Hangover

My favorite time of the year is swiftly approaching – Christmas!  For those individuals who celebrate other holidays like Kwanzaa, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah – the tips in this article apply to you as well! Now is the perfect time to prepare your personal finances for a happy holiday that doesn’t land you in dreadful debt in the New Year.

1. Rack up those credit card reward points/miles – Nearly a third of Americans travel throughout the holiday season every year and with airfare costs up 40% higher than just two years ago, families must start planning now if they want to get a good deal on travel expenses.  If you get a credit card that offers great airfare miles or cash back, you can easily cut the costs of your traveling expenses for the holidays.  Start using your reward credit card for monthly fixed expenses and make sure to pay the card off every paycheck or at the end of each month.  If you use this strategy between now and the Christmas holiday, you and your family could rack up enough airline miles or cash back points to possibly travel for FREE during the holidays!

2. Stash some cash – Allocating yourself a three month saving window for holiday gifts and other expenses will prevent you from finding yourself in a holiday debt hangover post holiday season.  Planning ahead is the key to keeping your finances in the positive.  With most banks, like Bank of America or Chase, you can sign up for a free savings account if you already have a checking account.  Most major banks encourage saving by offering a free service of  making one to two transfers of at least $25 per month automatically from your checking account to your savings account.  This way, the money is out of sight and out of mind until holiday expenses arise.

3. Start discount shopping now – Most online retailers offer sale alert emails or newsletters – make sure to sign up for your preferred shopping outlets in an effort to stay up-to-date on the latest sales.  If you are the first to know about the sale, you can take advantage of it before the product sells out – allow you to save a little cash on holiday gifts.

4. Make a list of expect holiday expenses – Creating a holiday budget and STICKING TO IT will prevent you from finding yourself in credit card debt.  Of course, it’s easier said than done, but it is feasible.  Simply get a folder and designate it to all holiday receipts and budgeting sheets or if you are more tech savvy, make sure to designate a digital file with all your excel budgeting sheets and electronic receipts.

5. Get a second job/addition income – Within the next free months, do additional freelance work or sell some items on eBay or Craig’s List to earn extra cash to go towards holiday expenses.  Making small changes to your holiday planning like this will help you stay in the green when January comes around.