If there’s one thing that I think we can all relate on, it’s definitely that the holidays have pretty much burned a hole in our wallets. There was the treat-yourself Black Friday shopping, the late-night study sessions at Starbucks, the six-foot Christmas tree and its ornaments, the holiday vacation and all the perfect gifts we bought for our loved ones. There were the items we needed to buy and others that seemed like a good idea in the moment. In our consumer-based culture, we buy to fulfill and feel fulfilled. And it’s very, very expensive.
A recent Gallup poll found that American adults were prepared to spend around $752 on holiday gifts this year. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation found that almost 60% of people plan to use the holidays as a time to buy things for themselves. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get your finances in check, here are some tips to securing that budget.
Keep track if you owe a friend money (and vice versa).
Don’t be shy to remind anyone that you lent them some dough. Unless you said it was your treat, chances are you want to be paid back. Use the Venmo app to keep tabs on your funds and send or receive deposits from your bank. Keeping a good record and paying off any debts ensures that anyone will be willing to lend you money again without worrying about whether they’ll be paid back.
The earlier you acknowledge buyer’s remorse, the better.
Be honest with yourself: Did you attempt holiday shopping and end up shopping for yourself instead? You walked in knowing exactly what you wanted to buy your best friend for Christmas and just ended up getting distracted on your way to the cashier. We all want to feel deserving of nice things and love to reward ourselves at the end of the year. Go through all the purchases you made during the season. Do you really need another pair of black denim? Or that trendy necklace that you’re probably going to wear only on New Year’s Eve and never again? Make sure you have a clear idea of your fave stores’ return policy and return whatever you don’t need.
Apps have more of an impact than you might think.
Download your bank’s app. You’ll receive notifications when your paychecks are deposited. You can also see the list of purchases you’ve made, the date you’ve made them and exactly how much you’re spending at that trendy brunch spot every month. Check it on a daily basis, and you’ll be able to be reminded of the budget you have and what you simply can’t afford to blow more money on. Meanwhile, the Mint Budgeting App uses details from your account to create a personalized budget and give you tips to reduce the amount you spend on fees.
Buy experiences, not goods.
As cliché as it sounds, experiences will always be more rewarding and materials will ultimately only bring short-term happiness. You loved the flattering sweater you tried on in the store but a month later you’re going to be complaining again that you don’t have anything to wear. A trip, whether it was 200 or 2,000 miles away, will leave impact you, whether you realize it now or not. At they very least, put all of your purchases in perspective. If a week-long domestic getaway was about $600, that would be about the cost of 12 $50 purchases. When you look back at this time in the future, you’re not going to remember the lipstick or dinner you bought, you’ll think of the trip to the place you’ve never been.
Get an earlier start on next year’s holiday shopping.
Shopping in January? Right after the holidays are over? Keeping tabs on sales and deals throughout the year instead of waiting until December makes more of a difference than you might think. During the holidays, stores and employees are equipped to convince you to buy more than you would, whether it’s with enticing sales or twinkly store layouts.
Sell any used clothing through apps.
While it’s still winter, try using apps to sell any seasonal used or new clothing that you weren’t able to return. The sooner you upload listings, the sooner you’ll be able to sell. While you might not think much of the pair of shoes collecting dust in the corner, that doesn’t mean others won’t jump at the chance to buy them.
Simplify your lifestyle.
Or at least experiment. Go a whole month without buying any guilty pleasures or following old habits. Instead of buying lunch at the usual spot, prepare your lunches for the week every Sunday, all from the ingredients in your fridge. Get creative with the clothes you already have instead of buying new pieces. Switch out the buttons of a jacket, distress your denim yourself, or cut the sleeves off a jacket and turn it into a vest. Once you look back at the month, you may find that it was easier than you thought.
Use more cash.
If you don’t trust your own sense of self-restraint when you go out, leave the cards at home and just stick with cash. A plus is that you’ll think twice about a purchase when you have cash instead of a card. No swipes, no problem.
Look for low-key ways to save money.
You won’t know if you don’t look. If you have to take a bus or a train to commute to work everyday, invest in weekly or monthly passes. Calculate how much you need to get to wherever you need to go in a week and then probably a little more. In the long run, daily passes will save you more than card refills.
Once you realize how much effort and time goes into earning money, you’ll be more inclined to think twice about purchases. Convert any free, or even sleep time, into activities like turning your hobby into a career path or taking the class of the skill you’ve always wanted to learn. Once you cram your schedule, you’ll realize how you won’t have that much time, or desire, to look for things to buy out of boredom or stress.