Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Holiday Fun—Or Funds

December brings with it so many additional items to our already busy schedules. From shopping and baking to organizing holiday gatherings and wrapping, there’s a lot on our plates. There’s also the added impact to our wallets that can turn even the jolliest of holiday elves into a stressed-out Grinch.

It’s important to have a plan in place to help keep the merriment in your merry holidays.

1. Make a list and check it twice. With mobile apps and online retailers, it’s easier than ever to gain access to the cost of items you plan to purchase ahead of time. This allows you to map out a strategy for gift purchases for the friends, family, and co-workers that you will be buying for this year. Armed with your solid list and plan, shop ahead and order online before the final shipping date cut-off so you are sure to get everything on your wish list.

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2. Take advantage of sales, special promotions, coupons, and cash back rewards. With so many special offers during the busy shopping season, it can get a little overwhelming. Consider purchasing all of your gifts using only one debit or credit card, so it allows you the ability to easily keep track of how much you are spending. Comparison shop at various retailers and take advantage of any coupons or coupon codes available. This is a good time to utilize any unused cash back rewards you’ve accumulated from your credit card purchases or app rewards throughout the year. Also, bring any unused gift cards with you while you shop.

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3. Factor in other holiday-associated costs. In planning for a stress-free holiday, you’ll want to consider all expenses that may be coming your way. Will you be shipping gifts to out-of-town relatives? Are you hosting this year’s holiday meal? Do your decorations need purchased, replaced, or updated? What about travel expenses, including gas, tolls, or airfare? Don’t forget to factor in any planned or unplanned donations and seasonal giving. All of these additional items can really add up, so plan accordingly.

4. Set expectations. If you’ve decided to keep this holiday simple and not do gift exchanges you otherwise did in previous years or would like to keep spending to a minimum, set the expectation ahead of time. Chances are, many others would like to simplify their holidays and will be glad to also pare parties, gifts, or exchanges. Host potlucks, play games, exchange names, bake gifts, or put your talents to work and create your own gifts. However you have chosen to celebrate the season, honor your wishes and your plans.

5. Stay alert and watch for fraudsters. Unfortunately, during the holidays, many criminals see this as an opportunity to trick you so they may steal your information or your hard-earned money. Don’t let them! Stay alert and monitor your accounts for unauthorized purchases. Be careful what you click on and only purchase online from reputable sites and retailers. If you suspect you’ve been a victim, alert your bank as well as your credit card company. Visit First Bank’s Security Hub for more tips on keeping your information safe.

6. Make time for some fun! It’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending to-do list and activities, that holiday fun and traditions are often overlooked. Turn on some holiday tunes or movies and bake some cookies, build a gingerbread house, make a craft, host a cookie exchange, or sit and relax with a good book.

The holidays should be a festive time, not a time that leaves you feeling overwhelmed or over-budget. Plan, stick to your list, don’t be afraid to say “no” to events you didn’t wish to attend, maintain your established healthy habits, and enjoy the simple pleasures of the season. Enjoy your holiday.