Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving feasts, and Christmas gift giving are right around the holiday corner.  Although most of us enjoy the memorable moments and tasty, “top secret,” family recipes – we dread the added expenses. Don’t get stuck in the holiday expense rut again! This year, plan ahead with the following 10 tips to keep your budget as blissful as the season.

1. Download a budgeting app!

To control your spending habits, you need a good overview of where your money is going. There are hundreds of user-friendly budgeting apps that can help you track your expenses at no cost.

2. Pay off your big expenses first.

Always pay for rent, utilities, groceries and whatever other bills you already owe first. Once you subtract these costs, you will  know how much you can comfortably spend on holiday activities.

3. Build a money buffer.

To afford additional expenses during the holidays, it’s a good idea to build a money buffer throughout the year. Each month, transfer money to a savings account before letting your hands on that extra cash. Although it may seem like a big portion of your paycheck goes to bills in the present, if you tuck some away throughout the year, you can access the extra funds you needs for the holidays.

4. Consolidate debt.

Whether it’s credit card debt, student debt or even a mortgage, always stay on top on your payments. If you can’t afford your payments, whatever you do, don’t default! A default could ruin your credit and may even lead to wage garnishments.  Instead, find out if lower payment could be available through a consolidation. When it comes to student loan debt – some plans, such as an IDR, will take your income, family size and few other personal factors into consideration to determine what your monthly payments will be. If you need help finding out which plans are available to you, the student debt specialists at Docupop can help you find and accurately file for the best plan to fit your needs.

5. Budget to zero each month.

You might be thinking, “what the heck does that mean?!” Well, it’s easier than it might sound. It’s a strategy to really control your budget by giving each dollar a name so you can direct your money where it belongs. Here’s an example. Let’s say you make $2,500 dollars each month. Assign each dollar a category until your income (minus what goes where) equals zero.

6. Incorporate the 50/20/30 plan.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be complicated.  For a better cash flow and consistent savings, you might want to give the 50/20/30 rule a try. Let 50% of your income go to necessities, 20% to your savings & retirement, and 30% to your personal spending.

7. Cut back on unnecessary purchases.

Ever heard of the term, “it’s the small things that add up”? How often do you buy lunch, pick up coffee on your way to work, or buy just, “one more,” pair of shoes in a month? Again, the small things add up!

8. Choose your payment methods wisely.

Try to identify what’s been causing you to overspend the last couple of months. We all have that one payment method that triggers our shopping impulses; especially online. Perhaps, the real spending culprit here is the use of credit cards. If so, give your credit card a much needed break and let your debit card take the driver seat for a while.

9. Review your expenses on a regular basis.

Even after utilizing the zero budgeting plan and the 50/20/30 rule, you still need to check your spending on a regular basis. If you hold off a full month to review your purchases, chances are you went over budget. Why not make a money Monday habit? Each Monday, perform a quick spending recap to make sure you’re on track.

10. Set realistic financial goals.

Where do you see yourself a month from now? How about next year? Whether your goal is to stay financially afloat or to save up for a big purchase – setting realistic goals can help you get there, faster. Don’t forget that there are plenty of great financial resources available such as financial podcasts, books, and blogs that can inspire your mindset to change.

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