Published in: Banks | Oct. 21, 2019

Why You Should Start Saving for the Holiday Season Now

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The holidays are approaching quickly -- don't leave it to the last minute to save for your holiday fund. 

As you put up fall decorations and start selecting Halloween costumes for you and the kids, there's actually another holiday season you should start thinking about -- the one that arrives in December. 

For many people, December is an expensive month because of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts and because of the costs of holiday parties and entertaining. Unfortunately, if you haven't planned ahead for these seasonal expenses, there's a risk you could end up in debt. 

Wrapped gift boxes decorated with a blue bow, wooden snowflakes, and a pine branch.

Image source: Getty Images

The good news is, it's not too late to get a jumpstart on savings. In fact, if you start now, you can reduce the amount of money you'll need to come up with in December and hopefully avoid having to reach for your credit cards to finance your festive fun. 

Why you should start saving for the holiday season now

According to the National Retail Foundation, consumers in 2018 planned to spend an average of $1,007 on holiday decor, candy, gifts, and other purchases during the winter holiday season. 

With such a high amount of projected spending, it comes as no surprise that most consumers couldn't afford to cover costs out of pocket. In fact, studies showed that the average consumer acquired more than $1,000 in holiday debt in 2018, which is a huge amount.

If you borrow for the holidays, you'll end up paying interest on all of the purchases you make. This could cost you hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars down the line, depending on how long you take to pay off what you owe. And if you're submitting only the minimum payments on your credit cards, you could end up paying off holiday debt for decades. 

The sooner you start saving, the less likely it is that this will happen to you. If you put aside cash now for the holidays, you can borrow less -- or even borrow nothing at all -- so you won't have to worry that you'll still be paying for this year's gifts when next year's holidays roll around. 

How to save for the holiday season

The best way to save for the holidays is to set a budget and figure out how much you'll need, and then put aside an appropriate amount of money each month to finance the spending you plan to do. 

If you hope to spend $1,000 and you want to save that money during October, November, and December, this would mean you'd need to set aside around $333 per month. While this may sound like a lot, it's much easier to save $333 each month for three months than to come up with $1,000 just in the month of December. 

You can find ways to save more by cutting unnecessary expenses such as dining out or entertainment. This short-term sacrifice will ensure the holidays are free of financial stress, since you'll have the cash you need on hand.

You can put your holiday money into a high-yield savings account so it's ready for you to spend -- or, if you know what gifts you're planning to buy, you can see if the store offers lay-away. This allows you to pay for a purchase over time, before you buy it, and take it home when the bill is paid in full. Some stores offer this option, and it's a much better alternative to charging something you can't pay off, since you pay for the item up front before you bring it home. 

Don't let the holidays creep up on you

December is just around the corner and since you know it's coming, there's no excuse not to prepare. Figure out today how much you need to save for the festive season and start setting money aside now. That way, this joyous time of year won't leave you with debt you regret as the new year rolls around.

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