As the leaves fall from the trees and the crisp, fall temperatures drop in preparation for snow, we’re reminded that the holiday season is just around the corner. With hot cider, warm fireplaces and family gatherings to look forward to, we often forget the hard work that goes into the next couple of months. To better prepare for what’s ahead, it’s time to start planning for the holiday season upon us. Some of the best ways to get ready for the holidays are as follows: Create a Budget Just like any other occasion where you are likely to spend a substantial amount of money, the holidays are a great time to keep your finances in order. The first thing you can do is take a look at your current budget and see what you will have left after bills and other necessities. This will serve as a baseline to help you determine how much wiggle room you’ll have when it comes to holiday spending. From there, you can further allocate specific amounts to categories like food, travel and gift expenses. You may even want to create a sub-savings account where you can house funds designated for the holiday season. Sticking to your budget and setting funds aside will help prevent money shortages in the months to come. Start Buying Now Once your budget is set, it’s time to start making the kinds of purchases that many of us tend to push off until the last minute. When it comes to food, it’s a good idea to start with buying nonperishables and items that can be frozen until your holiday gatherings take place. If you’re worried about them spoiling, other foods can be picked up closer to the event. As for items such as gifts and travel arrangements, you can also start making purchases early to save time. Actively seeking out coupons and discounts from the beginning can result in significant savings. By planning your purchases and making them in advance, you’ll be able to scope out prices and increase your chances of getting the best deals. It’s also likely that you’ll cut down on shopping and travel times by picking the gifts up as you go, rather than waiting until busier shopping days. Buy in Bulk On top of clipping coupons and finding deals, you can also save money by buying in bulk. Both standard and bulk retailers can offer benefits to purchasing in larger quantities. Deals like “10 for $10” and “buy-one, get-one” can lead to substantial savings at your standard grocery store, while wholesale prices at bulk retailers can be worth the cost of membership if you make enough purchases over time. Although the cost of an individual item and a smaller volume of a product may be lower initially, the price per unit when buying in bulk will often be lower. It’s worth your time to figure out which option will work best for you and allow you to save the most money. Bring-Your-Own-Dish Celebrations Whether you’re hosting or you plan to travel somewhere for the holidays, you can also curb spending by participating in celebrations where everybody brings a dish to pass. Not only will this cut down on the time spent preparing big meals, but it will also save you money. Making one or two dishes will be a much more cost-effective solution than preparing a multiple course meal. Another important benefit of a bring-your-own-dish gathering is that it encourages diversity in food options, thus satisfying the taste buds of all of those who attend. Make Leftovers Last One of the best parts about the conclusion of a celebration involving a large meal is having leftovers. The remaining components can easily be transformed into multiple small meals over the course of a few days, which can save you even more time and money. Whether you choose to simply reheat the remainder of your meal, or you completely change it into a new dish, you have plenty of options to continue enjoying the holiday cuisine. Enjoy Yourself After weeks of hard work leading up to your holiday events and gatherings, you deserve to enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Through proper planning and budgeting, you have the ability to do just that, and you can make the most of the season.
Sarah Bohan is the Vice President Corporate Relations at MSU Federal Credit Union. MSUFCU's headquarters are at 3777 West Road East Lansing, MI 48823. Contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 333-2208.