With summer already feeling like a distant memory, your attention may be starting to turn towards the rest of the year, and the holidays that come with the colder weather. Although this time might seem like a particularly stressful season financially, there are a few things you can do now to make sure that you’re prepared for the winter months.

If you’re panicking about the lack of preparation you’ve done up until this point to get you ready for Christmas or other celebrations, don’t worry. The following basic budgeting hacks will get you started on the right path.

1. Work Out What You’re Spending

First, think about how much you can reasonably afford to spend. Just like you budget for other things, such as your personal loan repayments, your bills, and your discretionary spending, it’s a good idea to set a budget for the holidays too – or even consider lines of credit to tide you over..

Once you know how much money you’re going to have left in your spending money for the next few months, ask yourself how much cash you want to put towards things like festive travel expenses, food, presents, decorations, and other essentials. This is your chance to get your priorities in order, so you know where your money needs to go.

2. Don’t Overspend on Food

While you can easily overspend on any part of your festive prep, you’ll find that it’s often much easier to spend a lot of money on food. It’s easy to get carried away when you see all the offers in your local supermarket for tins of chocolates and mince pies. However, more often than not, you’re going to end up with more food than you can reasonably eat.

Unless you want to have to really work on your diet and exercise plan when the new year arrives, make a list for everything you need in advance and stick to it. If guests are coming over for dinner, don’t be afraid to ask them to contribute too.

3. Shop Early

Don’t wait until the last minute to get your hands on the presents and essential items you want. The earlier you can start buying your must-have products, the easier it will be to spread the costs of your seasonal shopping out over a few months. It’s much easier to make your money stretch this way, as you won’t be trying to afford everything off a single payday alone.

Another benefit of getting started early is that you can avoid at least some of the common Christmas crowds. Don’t forget to check whether you can get better deals online too – that way you can save money from the comfort of your own home.

4. Sign Up for Sales Alerts

Speaking of starting your shopping early, you might as well take advantage of the sales as and when they happen. For instance, black Friday is an excellent opportunity to get some of the bigticket items on your list for a lower price, if you don’t mind dealing with the crowds and chaos.

You can also save some extra cash by joining the VIP newsletter list for your favorite brands. This will mean that you’re the first to hear about upcoming discounts and sales that are happening before the holidays arrive. Follow your fave brands on social media too, for even more opportunities to save.

5. Make Your Own Decorations

The chances are that your kids will have some time off school around the holidays, and you’ll be looking for things that you can do to keep them busy. With that in mind, why not tackle two issues at once by asking your children to help you make some festive decorations. This way, you can keep your costs low, while simultaneously entertaining the little ones.

The decorations you make with your kids might not be as fancy or professional as the ones that you’ve seen in the shops, but they’ll be a lot more meaningful to you over the years.

6. Keep Travel Costs Low

Finally, if you’re heading somewhere far afield over the holidays, make sure that you’re not spending more than you need to. Remember that you can make some significant savings on the cost of travel by booking tickets in advance. Additionally, if you need somewhere to stay you can always consider things like Airbnb instead of paying for a traditional hotel.

Traveling over the holidays doesn’t have to be as painful or expensive as it seems. All it takes is a little prior planning to get your family on track.

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