Gray Tv

Watching Your Wallet: Budget now for holiday spending

Planning travel and shopping months in advance can pay off in the long run, financial experts say.

By: Rachel DePompa, InvestigateTV and WWBT

Christmas is several months away, but now is the time to get your budgets ready.

Americans rack up more than $1,000 in holiday debt each year according to one Magnify Money study, and all that spending can leave a nasty financial hangover.

InvestigateTV teamed up with financial website NerdWallet to help you take the guilt out of giving.

Perry Wilson, a 58-year-old retired accountant, shows some of the gifts he bought nearly a year ahead of time for Christmas 2018. Courtesy: InvestigateTV

Perry Wilson loves Christmas so much he always has decorations around, including candles in the window, four small trees, a snowman and a Santa Claus.

“I just keep them up because why take them down? You’re going to put them right back,” Wilson said.

While it may be October, as one may imagine based on the decorations, Wilson has been ready for this upcoming Christmas since last January.

“January 10th I had completed one present for everybody. Got a couple more but that’s it,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he isn’t overbudget: “Nope!  I actually saved.”

Wilson said he starts buying presents the day after Christmas, picking up little gifts all the time.

“CD of Frank Sinatra, never been opened, never been played. I paid $2 for it,” said Wilson. “I don’t want to have to pay full price when I can get it really cheap.”

He’s a bargain shopper – only buying with cash for the right price.

“Don’t use your credit card! Don’t use it! Lay away, pay half down and pick it up later,” Wilson said.

Kim Palmer, a writer for NerdWallet, specializes in personal finance and recommends getting organized early.“The most important thing is giving yourself a budget ahead of time which really requires some planning because a lot of people get into trouble with overspending,” Palmer said.

To think longterm for the holidays, Palmer said you should know where you money is going and how much you can set aside. Part of that can mean knowing how much you are willing to spend for each person on your gift list.

“I mean it sounds simple, but that’s actually the best starting point. Because when people do overspend it tends to be because they don’t have that limit,” Palmer said.

Kim Palmer, a writer for NerdWallet, recommends shoppers create a list with a hard budget with a set dollar amount they will not go over for each person. Courtesy: InvestigateTV

She also recommended setting aside money now from each paycheck. $100 here and there could make a big difference come December 1.

“It’s never too early to start. There’s no problem with starting early. You just want to make sure you give yourself a budget,” Palmer said.

When the rest of us are shopping in December, Wilson will be home.

“I said thank God I won’t have to be out there at the end of the season going, ‘Oh lord! What am I going to do? What am I going to get so and so?’” Wilson said.

His goal this year is to have all his gifts bought by New Year’s Day – for Christmas 2019.

“You want to make it simple at Christmas. You don’t want to feel like ‘Oh God, I’ve got so much to do!’ Cookies to bake, and meals to plan, you don’t want to do that.”

If you have to travel for the holidays don’t forget to factor that cost into your budget.

Unfortunately a lot of people buy tickets too soon or too late.

Palmer said, “The optimal price is usually one to two months before you travel. You want to buy your ticket at that time.”

For more tips on saving money for travel and shopping this holiday season, watch the video below: