If you bought the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it would cost close to $30,000, according to PNC’s annual Christmas Price Index, a whimsical economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management. Few have a budget – or desire – for all those birds and performers, but ‘tis the season to get carried away … no matter what you’re buying.
I’ll offer Five Golden Rules for holiday spending so you don’t overstuff the stockings – or break your budget:
- Be choosy: Identify your special partridges and pare down your list to those you’re actually close to. Don’t guilt-buy for those far-away relatives who will re-gift your tacky present anyway. If you can’t resist, create a funny e-card for free.
- Create a budget: Don’t be one of the geese who lays a spending egg. Once you know who you’re buying for, decide how much you will spend per person. If $15 is all you can afford per person, then spend $15, not $17 or $20. If that seems a bit Scrooge-like, tell your friends and family to set the same limits for you. Take advantage of online budgeting tools to set limits with text or email alerts on your spending.
- Find the bargains: Be surfing while the swans are a-swimming. Look for coupons and Groupons. When it comes to online shopping, there’s a cost for convenience. The online cost of gifts can be significantly higher (45 percent in some cases) than when purchased in person. But you can save by watching for free shipping offers and no-hassle returns, plus there are Cyber Monday deals and Free Shipping Day with various retailers.
- Get crafty: Handy drummers are drumming up their own gifts. Whip up a few dozen batches of your special cookies, cake pops or brownies, package them in pretty baskets with a bow, and call it a day. Who on your list wouldn’t love a homemade treat over a store-bought gift?
- Pay smartly: Like the maids, milk the most out of your money. Pre-paid cards mean you only spend a set amount and are perfect for kids to learn how to buy for others and stay on budget. Cash in on your credit card reward points to buy gifts. When using credit, make sure you have a plan to pay off your balance. For online payments, look for security or privacy seals first before submitting information. The payment page should have a lock icon and the address should start with “https.”
Wishing you a happy – and budget-friendly – holiday season!
Chris George is senior vice president at PNC Bank and longtime Wilmington resident. He has served PNC and its predecessors for more than 20 years in various leadership roles. PNC Bank, N.A., a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., is one of the United States’ largest diversified financial services organizations, providing retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management.
These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.