This time of year doesn’t typically bring to mind the holiday hustle and bustle, but thinking about it now might be the best thing you can do for your budget and your schedule.


A little planning ahead goes a long way toward being prepared come holiday time. Check out these tips on how to get ready now for the holidays that will be here before we know it.

This time of year doesn’t typically bring to mind the holiday hustle and bustle, but thinking about it now might be the best thing you can do for your budget and your schedule.


A little planning ahead goes a long way toward being prepared come holiday time. Check out these tips on how to get ready now for the holidays that will be here before we know it.


1. Make a list now (and check it twice!)


You can’t begin to guess how much you’ll spend until you make a comprehensive list of all the folks you’d like to buy for.


“Don’t forget anyone,” says financial planner Thea Reynolds, owner of WaterSeed Wealth Management and Budget in a Binder in Naperville, Ill. “Teachers, clients, the mailman – they all should be on this list.”


2. Determine what you’ll spend


This may be tough, but think about each person on your list and set a spending goal. Successful planning begins with determining a final total for all your gifts. Make sure that your numbers are realistic and achievable. Reynolds suggests including birthday and other gift amounts in your master list as well.


3. Budget is the name of the game


“Ideally, folks will do this planning at the beginning of the year,” says Reynolds, who advises taking the grand total, dividing it by 12 and depositing that amount in your bank account each month. “This constant accumulation of funds really does make a difference.”


While you may need to spend some of the money throughout the year on gifts, you’ll be very prepared come holiday shopping time.


It’s not too late to start your holiday budget now: Just divide your gift total by the number of months left until shopping time and save that amount each month.


4. Keep funds separate


It’s not a great plan to mingle your every day money and your gift savings.


“In my class, I teach my clients to have a separate gift checking account,” Reynolds says. “Setting that money aside makes it harder to spend on other things throughout the year.”


5. Shop ahead


One of the best ways to keep your budget in line is to shop for your gifts throughout the year.


“I do this myself,” Reynolds says. “I shop for things while they’re on sale and keep them at home in my gift closet so when the time comes, I’m ready.”


Things like perfume or chocolate rarely go on special during the holidays, but keep your eyes open for great deals just a few months earlier in the year.


 


Bolster your holiday fund


Consider these ways to beef up a lagging gift savings account:


- Sell what you don’t need: Look into consignment, online auction sites or a garage sale to make money on unused items already on hand.


- Cash in on credit card rewards: Points can be traded for gifts, gift cards or even cold, hard cash depending on your card agreement.


- Restaurant gift cards: Numerous big name restaurants run specials that involve receiving a free card when you spend a certain amount.


- Tighten your belt: With holiday shopping in mind, forgo your weekly coffee or monthly pedicure a few times and you’ll find your gift fund growing before your eyes.