After the fun of the holidays is over, many of us are left facing a hefty bill in the New Year. It can be hard to avoid using credit to pay for the festive season but saving in the fall months leading up to the holidays will help soften the blow in January.
Saving up for a holiday and paying for it with cash is usually the best option for your finances. However, if you can save up the full amount in cash, paying for your holiday with a credit card might be a good idea as it’s likely to be protected under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. This means you may be able to make a claim if the airline or travel agency goes bust or the holiday isn’t as described.
Financing your holiday or vacation with a credit card may seem like a good way to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket during the holiday season. Paying by credit is only a good idea if you pay off your bill quickly and in full with the cash you’ve already saved up. Otherwise, you could be paying hundreds of dollars extra in interest. Some travel firms also charge you a fee for using a credit card to pay for your vacation.
It’s difficult to pay for Christmas out of December’s pay packet alone, so it makes sense to save up as much as you can beforehand. The earlier you start saving, the less you need to put aside each month. Even a small amount over a few months can make a big difference.
Borrowing money to cover your holiday expenses could come at a price in interest and fees. At best, that could be money used for something far more worthwhile. Worst case scenario, it could leave you with debt you may struggle to pay off for months or even years to come.
The thought of planning your holidays on a budget may seem to lack luster and sparkle. Nevertheless, be encouraged! Even when you're on a budget, the holidays can still be enchanting. The trick to staying out of the red (and still feeling festive) is to shave dollars while traveling, menu-planning, and hosting.
- Plan Ahead
Whether you're hitting the road or an airport this holiday season, always pack your own travel snacks and a reusable water bottle. Airport foods are highly overpriced and gas station and convenience store snacks are not much better. You can save a good amount of money by not buying canned or bottled drinks every time you're thirsty.
- Be a Local
For longer trips, where you're staying in a hotel or resort, ask the locals for quality affordable restaurants to avoid tourist traps and room service costs. If you can, lodge somewhere with a kitchen and get friendly with the nearest grocery store. I'm not saying you should cook all your meals (we all know the holidays can be stressful enough without that) but at least stock your accommodations with your favorite grocery store snacks and simple breakfast items.
- Host Smart
If you can, host pitch-ins or potlucks for holiday parties to lighten the load on your own pockets. If you're having a big holiday dinner prioritize your main dishes, sides, and buy just enough ingredients for the dishes that matter to you the most. As always, steer clear of pre-made and packaged holiday foods, which are usually pricier than buying the basic ingredients and making the dish yourself.