Why you should be financially preparing for the holidays

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savemoneyholidaysI know, I know… It’s only just starting to dip below the 80 degree mark in most parts of the country. “Pumpkin-spiced everything” has only just hit the grocery store shelves and we’re only now just searching for our cold weather coats in the back of the closet.

It’s barely even fall – so why are we talking about the holidays already?

As annoying as it is to walk into a drugstore before Thanksgiving only to be greeted by Christmas tree decorations and chocolate Santa Clauses, getting a head start on the holidays can actually be a good thing.

For the more obsessive savers out there (i.e. me), preparing early for the holidays means saving early. And for me, that means as early as January. I have a holiday savings account just for the occasion, one that I contribute to regularly starting in the New Year. By contributing only $50 a month to my account, I have about $550 to spend by the time the holidays roll around. That means instead of having to charge a few hundred dollars to my credit card in December for an expensive plane ticket and gifts for the family, I just use what I’ve got in my savings account.

Okay. So you might not have started saving money ten months ago, and I bet you don’t have access to a time machine to go and fix that. That’s okay. Starting to save even a little bit of money now can really help you when the holidays come around. Let’s take a look at the math: pretend you have a goal of saving up $500 for the holidays. With just 8 weeks left until the holidays hit, you’ll have to save a little over $60 a week (or $250 a month) to make that happen. That means cutting back on some big purchases in the short term or using your holiday bonus to cover your shopping. But start even just a few weeks before that with 12 weeks left and you only need about $40 a week to make it happen.

When it comes to saving money and planning for big purchases, time is your friend. So saving even just a little bit as early as possible can make your holiday shopping go that much smoother.

Another way to start preparing for the holidays now to help you save money? Setting expectations. When we’re already swept up with the holiday shopping season, it’s harder to “have the talk” with the family about how much you can afford to spend on presents this year. By preparing a little in advance of the holidays and having a discussion now about how many presents everyone should expect, you can avoid those awkward conversations when everyone is already in the middle of their holiday shopping.

So I’m not saying that you don’t still have time to enjoy the fall weather or celebrate Halloween, but as the days get shorter and the leaves start to turn, keep your eyes toward the future and start saving a little bit now for the holidays. Your wallet will thank you later!