You may have heard that people who listen to holiday music and put up Christmas decorations early are happier. The same may be true for those who plan ahead for the holidays.
COUNTRY Financial® recently surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to find out what steps they take to prepare for the holidays and found half of Americans say they’re happier when they plan ahead for the holidays.
How far in advance do you start planning for your holiday spending? One in 10 Americans said they start 9 months to one year in advance, but four in 10 don’t plan to create a holiday budget at all. And it’s no surprise that for those who do feel stressed around the holidays, 30 percent say finances are the leading cause.
If you’re struggling to get on track, try three simple steps for a stress-free holiday:
1. Create a budget for the holidays and beyond.
It’s important to stay on track so as not to ruin your financial goals. Even if the holiday season is in full swing, it’s not too late to take control of your finances and establish a budget to determine what you can really afford.
Start by making a list of the gifts you need to buy, and don’t forget the costs of hosting and holiday travel. If necessary, cut back on spending in other areas and look for sales to avoid going into debt.
And don’t stop there - continue drafting your budget into the new year to account for new holiday savings goals and to pay off any credit cards you may have used.
2. Use credit cards wisely.
Three in 10 Americans surveyed said they plan to use credit cards for holiday purchases this year. However, more than half (56%) of them say they’ll pay it off within one month. When used judiciously, credit cards can provide many benefits like fraud protection, cash back and points, but it’s easy to get into the habit of swiping and paying later when your budget is tight. As you take a glimpse into the new year, plan to spend only what you can afford to pay off in January.
3. Set up a holiday savings account.
Only 3 in 10 Americans say they set aside money for the holidays. If you’re feeling the pinch this year, research holiday savings accounts at a bank or credit union. Setting aside a little money each month can go a long way to ease the burden of paying for holiday costs next year.
Visit the financial wellness section of our website for more tips to help you reach your financial goals.