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10 Ways to Make January as Financially Happy as December

We’ve all been there: The shock of opening up the first credit card bill after the holidays, or just of running short on funds in January. How did those expenses pile up so quickly and so high?

The good news is you still have plenty of time to get control of your holiday spending and make sure your January is just as happy as your December.

Your Strategies

1. First establish your total budget for holiday spending. Estimate how much you can afford to spend, and set that figure as your TOTAL expense goal.

2. Make a list and check it twice. Do you really need to buy gifts for everyone on your list? Distant relatives would be happy with a card and a personal note, and coworkers with a potluck. Think about alternatives to purchased gifts: Babysitting for busy parents, taking elders shopping or to cultural events. If you have a talent, or are an almost-expert in something, offer a teaching session or two: art, carpentry, music, sports, etc.

3. Make your holiday and gift list and stick to it. Establish a dollar budget for each person, and remember to include the cost of wrapping and shipping. Don’t forget to include any charitable donations, holiday meals, entertaining, gasoline, travel, and postage. And don’t go over your budget!

4. Resist those impulse buys. Stick to your plan!

5. Use a specially designated debit card just for holiday shopping. Load up your debit card with the amount you want to spend this season. Use it for all your purchases—that way you won’t overspend.

6. Don’t sign up for special financing plans or new credit cards. Additional store credit cards will only make overspending easier, as will 0% down and payment plans. Plus, their interest rates are among the highest.

7. Keep track of your spending. A simple list on your phone, or a notebook you can carry with you, will make it easier to keep notes on what you’re spending through the season.

8. Use your free time and wisely—don’t hang out in the mall, or go shopping “just to look.”

9.  Stay on guard against identity theft: Make sure you have your credit or debit card AND your wallet when you leave the cash register; shield yourself when entering your PIN number; examine your credit card statements; don’t share your personal information with strangers; double check all charitable requests.

10. Start thinking about next year. Set aside a small planned amount each month either into a Christmas Club account, a savings account, or start loading a specially designated debit card. Starting in January save for the holidays in other ways: Put all your change into a jar (kids can do this, too).

Remember to Shop Smart

1. You have a plan. Now, wait and watch prices rather than try to power through your shopping in one day.

2. Check sales flyers, sign up for store emails, and check online comparison shopping websites for the best pricing (

3. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale—buy it because it is planned and fits in your budget.

4. Check out discount stores when shopping for holiday meals, and gifts: dollar stores, closeout stores, warehouse clubs, craft shows, and swap meets.

5. Use store coupons and promo codes. Frequently these are offered when you sign up for emails, or agree to do a survey. Search online for “coupon” or “promo code” and the name of the store you want. Try a coupon exchange with your family and friends.

6. Use your discounts. Are you a senior or a student, military, or member of an insurance group like AAA? Ask what discounts you qualify for.

7. Use your points. Do you have airline, hotel, or points credit cards? Now is the time to use those accumulated points! Check online and see what you can redeem them for: gifts, gift cards, even gift vacations.

8. Save time and money by buying ingredients in bulk for holiday cooking, and think about food as a gift idea—cake or cookies in a decorative box, jam or spiced nuts in a decorated jar are all welcome gifts.

9. Don’t wait till the last minute to ship your gifts. Expedited shipping will add a lot to your holiday expenses.

10. Try to make some purchases after Christmas. Won’t see your best friend till after the holidays? Buy their present afterward and on sale! Use after-Christmas sales to stock up for next year: wrapping paper, ribbon, cards, decorations, and gifts will all be marked down.

Happy Holidays from PayDayHawaii!

This entry was posted in Financial Education, Smart Shopping and Budgeting. Bookmark the permalink.

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