Christmas, Hanukkah and the holiday season have come and gone — likely taking quite a bit of your cash with them.
You can’t magically make more money appear in your bank account. And it’s definitely too late to ask Santa for a check. But here are three of the next best things you can do.
It’s not surprising if you spent more than you can afford over the past couple of months. After all, we often do this to make loved ones happy, says Richard K. Colarossi, a certified financial planner and partner at Colarossi & Williams in Islandia, New York.
But now it’s time to get back on budget. Cut back your regular spending in an attempt to save more money to free up funds for debt repayment and savings.
Colarossi estimates that bringing your lunch to work for the next few weeks and skipping a $5 cup of coffee could save at least $100 in a month.
There are other things you can do, too. Consider minimal changes such as setting your thermostat a degree or two lower and cutting down on an online shopping habit.
For more substantial savings, bundle your cable and internet, cut out rideshare services, cancel some music and streaming subscriptions or renegotiate the price of your utility bills.
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Pay down high-interest debt as soon as possible, Colarossi advises. And, if you’re able, make it a point to fund your savings plan as much as you can, even if it’s a small amount.
You can also control spending by managing commitments over the next 12 months. If you’re already struggling after paying for gifts, try not to overload yourself with more financial obligations.
“Plan ahead for abstention,” said Kelly Goldsmith, an associate professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, in an email. “Don’t book a vacation, or commit to attending a wedding that you know will be accompanied by a hefty price tag.”
Allow some time to get your bearings before you take on new, out-of-the-ordinary expenses.
Give yourself positive reinforcement along the way. The first month might be the hardest, but it will get better. Goldsmith says cutting spending now will boost your confidence and make it easier to save in February, March and beyond.
“Compare your credit card bills from November, December and January and blow your own mind with how much less you spent,” she said.
As you keep saving, you’ll figure out which techniques work (or don’t work) for your lifestyle. Perhaps you’ll want to keep coffee in your budget after all, but discover that you can do without monthly beauty box deliveries.
Then, look ahead so you can put yourself in a more desirable financial position later this year. Colarossi points out that, ideally, sticking with a budget should produce a surplus that can be used for holiday spending.
Depending on what happened this time around, you may need to budget more money for the next holiday season — or budget the same amount and spend less.