The holiday season is fast upon us. Just as it’s easy to overeat during the holidays, it’s easy to overspend, especially if you buy on credit. People spend about 15 percent more on purchases paid with a credit card.
To help you through the holiday rush and keep your spirits bright, here are seven tips to make the most of your money, and save taxes to boot – now there’s a real gift!
1. Make a gift-giving budget and stick to it. Here is a fact to help you keep things in perspective. The annual budget of the United Nations is $4.89 billion, less than one third of last year’s Toys’R’Us revenue. Isn’t it time to get sane about holiday spending?
2. Decorate on the cheap. Instead of splurging on holiday knickknacks, use your ingenuity. Bundle pine boughs to capture the scent of the holidays, or buy wide velvet ribbon and tie bows on everything from doorknobs and banisters to candlesticks.
3. Give from the heart and hearth. Happy memories come these special times, not from spending a lot of money at holiday time. Bake bread, knit a scarf or make a personalized scrapbook. A handmade gift or baked goods tells the recipient you invested time (not to mention love) in the gift – and that makes it priceless!
4. Gift wisely. You are spending your hard-earned cash, so be sure that the recipient is getting something they value. It doesn’t always work that way, you know — 42% of consumers still have at least one unopened holiday gift from last year in the back of their closet, and 28% admitted to re-gifting at least one of their holiday gifts from last year. And speaking of closets…
5. Clean out your closets, and donate to charity the old clothes, sporting goods, books, and other household goods that you no longer use. You will welcome the New Year with new space in your life, and get a quick tax deduction to boot. Document these donations by making a list of the items at the time you donate them, so you can use It’s Deductible to compute the value of your donation.
6. Prepare for next year right after the holiday. Buy all of your decorations, gift wrap, and cards for next year at this year’s post-holiday sales. And after paying off this year’s bills, put aside $50 to $100 a month for next year’s holiday presents. You’ll emerge from next year’s holiday rush debt-free. And while you are preparing for next year…
7. Do a rough calculation of your taxes for this year now. Use TurboTax software to estimate this year’s taxes, or note your new numbers in the margin of last year’s tax return and use last year’s tax rates as a rough approximation. The IRS treats income taxes withheld from your paycheck as if they were paid in equal amounts throughout the year. So if your calculations show you’ll owe money, you can increase the withholding on your last paychecks of the year to make up the difference.
Above all, remember to enjoy the holidays. Don’t stress yourself, spend yourself into debt or spread yourself too thin trying to create the perfect celebration. Memories make themselves when you cherish time with friends and family.