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This simple exercise can help you save big on holiday shopping

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This simple exercise can help you save big on holiday shopping

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Need a better way to be mindful about your holiday spending? A spending to-do-list may be just what you need, according to Johnny and Joanna Galbraith, founders of Our Freaking Budget. The couple say this helpful list helps them stay on top of their budget and prevents them from splurging, especially during the holidays.

A spending to-do-list is simple. Every evening before bed, or in the morning before you start your day, write down the purchases you plan to make, and include the amount of money you intend to spend on those purchases. "The intent there is to cut down on impulse purchases and things that you weren't necessarily planning on buying," Johnny Galbraith says.

Start with a holiday budget

Decide how much you plan to spend this holiday season. This includes money you intend to spend on gifts, food, decorations, parties and anything else you typically spend on.

"We start with a budget and then we sort of look at that budget and say, 'How far can we make this go?'" says Johnny.

"The more deliberate you are about your spending, the less impulsive it becomes, the more responsible and helpful it will be in sticking to a budget," he explains.

Create a holiday shopping to-do list based on how much you can spend

Once you know how much you want to spend, create a list for each person you plan to buy gifts for. If you plan on having a holiday party, create a list for that, as well. Write down how much you intend to spend on each gift or item on your lists.

"Keeping track of what you bought in your head is impossible, especially during the holidays when you have so many other things going on," says Joanna Galbraith. "So, just having a place where it's all written down — it's going to keep you on track."

Plan ahead of time and be deliberate

Writing down everything you plan to purchase allows you to be deliberate about how you spend your money, according to Johnny.

"Time is the enemy of responsible spending around the holidays," he says.

Once you have a list of well-thought-out gifts, you have time to research those gifts online, find the best deals, and save on shipping, Johnny says.

Time is the enemy of responsible spending around the holidays.

"The to-do list is sort of encapsulating this whole idea of being deliberate and thoughtful, and giving yourself enough time to make it a fun, responsible season," he adds.

Create a "to-buy later" list

Another great way to save during holiday shopping, according to the Utah couple, is to create a "to-buy later" list. If you see something you want to buy for yourself, put it on a "to-buy-later" list. This will postpone the purchase until you have more money in your budget. It also allows you to feel hopeful about being able to buy it.

"I actually think there's a lot of psychological benefits of writing things down and getting it out of your head," says Johnny. "And I think what's nice about this idea is that you're acknowledging that it's something you actually want to buy and that you hope to buy, and more so that you anticipate to buy but just at a point later on."

Track your spending lists in a budget tracker

The couple recommends using a budget tracker to keep on top of your holiday purchases. They suggest using an app like Home Budget, where you manually enter your transactions. It might sound inconvenient, says Joanna, but it's beneficial because it forces you to be aware of every purchase you make.

"We refer to it as 'active budgeting,' and basically it just forces you to be aware of every single thing you're spending [on]," she says.

Budgeting is a mental game

A spending-to-do list isn't simply about keeping track every penny you spend — it's about being aware of how much you spend and what you're spending it on, according to the couple.

"If it was just a math game, we would all be perfect at it," says Joanna. She says spending is really about our emotions.

"It's important to have yourself mentally prepared and psychologically prepared to stay on track and have the right perspective and a long-term perspective on what you need to do with your money in order to, in the long term, meet the financial goal that you would like," Joanna says.

How a spending to-do-list can help you save on the holidays:

  • Decide how much you plan to spend this holiday season.
  • Once you know how much you want to spend, create a list for each person you plan to buy gifts for. If you plan on having a holiday party, create a list for that, as well.
  • Once you have a list of well-thought-out gifts, you have time to research those gifts online, find the best deals, and save on shipping
  • If you see something you want to buy for yourself, put it on a "to-buy-later" list. This will postpone the purchase until you have more money in your budget.
  • Use an app like Home Budget, where you manually enter your transactions. This will force you to be aware of every purchase you make.

Holiday Survival Guide

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