- Let’s face it: The holidays can be financially stressful.
- But, there’s lots you can do to recover and get ahead, from making your money earn more with a high-yield savings account to visiting a financial planner.
- Setting up automatic transfers for saving, paying off debt, and meeting with a financial planner could all help make next year’s holiday season less financially stressful.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
The holidays aren’t always so jolly when it comes to your money.
It’s not hard to come to the end of a busy season of holiday parties and gifts, only to realize that your financial picture isn’t exactly what you thought it would be. But, going into the new year, there are several things you can do to get your finances back on track, and make next year’s holiday season easier on your finances.
From creating a budget to opening a high-yield savings account, here are seven things to do today to make next year’s holiday a little bit easier.
1. Open a high-yield savings account
If you don’t already have a high-yield savings account, opening one could help you save smarter and make your money work harder, whether you’re saving for a big, long-term goal or for next Christmas.
High-yield savings accounts aren’t much different from the savings account you probably already have. The only difference? A high-yield savings account offers about 20 times more interest than a typical savings account, earning up to 2%.
Let’s say that you open a high-yield savings account with 1.5% interest with $100 this December. If you add $100 each month for a whole year, you’ll have $1,309 next December. Start your account with $100 and add $150 each month to save up $1,913 by next December to spend on gifts, travel, hosting, or charitable giving.
Or, leave it for two years, and in December 2021, you’ll have $3,755 in savings. Five years from now, you’ll have about $9,500 in that savings account. Talk about taking some stress out of the holidays.
2. Set up your savings account to grow automatically
Once you’ve opened a high-yield savings account, setting up automatic transfers into that account each month could help you make saving painless. You can do this by logging into your bank’s website, or calling the customer service line.
By setting up automatic deposits, you can make saving one less thing to do on your monthly agenda. Just like you pay your bills automatically, you could be saving automatically, too.
It doesn’t require hundreds of dollars each month — even saving $50 automatically each month into your high-yield savings account can be effective. Open an account with $100, save $50 each month, and it can grow to $700 by next December.
3. Start increasing your savings amounts, and set up reminders to do so
Once you have your high-yield savings account and automatic transfers set up, there’s one thing left to do: increase your savings throughout the year.
Think you’ll be getting a bonus in Q2? Or, know that you’ll be able to put in more from March onwards? Go ahead and set up a reminder on your phone or calendar to increase your savings.
How much you want to increase your savings ultimately depends on how you want to use it, but you might find that upping your savings throughout the course of the year, even by just a little bit, could greatly increase your savings by next December.
4. Take stock of any credit card debt
Credit card balances can make the holidays feel a little less cheery. But, what if you could wipe out your balance by next December, or three Decembers from now? It might be possible if you start taking stock of your debts, and make a plan to get rid of them. When you aren’t paying a huge credit card bill every month, you’ll have more room to spend on holiday necessities.
The first step is to gather info on all of your debts, including balances, interest rates, and how much you can realistically spend on paying these debts each month as well. Once you’ve got this information in front of you, you can decide which method to use to repay them.
5. And start paying off that debt
Two methods are expert favorites: the debt snowball method, which wipes out small debts first, and the debt avalanche method, which focuses on high-interest debts first. Both the debt avalanche and the debt snowball method involve making the minimum payments on all debts. Then, you’ll throw the remainder of your debt-elimination budget towards the debt you’re focusing on.
The debt snowball focuses on eliminating the smaller debts first with whatever is left over, after making the minimum payments on all of your other debts. Experts like this method because of the momentum it builds, and the emotional boost of watching your debts get crossed off the list.
The debt avalanche prioritizes the highest-interest debt first, eliminating the most expensive debt before moving on to the next one. Experts like this method because although it might take you longer to pay off a single debt, it will ultimately save you more money over the lifetime of your debt.
Once you get started, these methods can help you keep on track to repay all of your debts. Start this December, and you could start seeing results in time for summer, well ahead of the holidays.
6. Set a budget for the year ahead
As the holidays continue, making a budget might be the last thing on your mind. But, managing your finances should be part of your new year routine to help set you up for success all year.
You can choose a few different methods for budgeting, and the way you do it is up to your preferences. You could go with a zero-sum budget, which makes a job for every dollar in your budget. Or, you go with a 50/30/20 system, which bases your budget on expenses (50%), disposable income (30%), and wealth-building and debt repayment (20%).
Whatever your method, now is the time to sit down with your favorite holiday drink of choice and pull together a budget for next year. Stick with it, and you might find the holidays a little less painful next year.
7. Set up an appointment with a financial planner
If the holidays have been painful for you this year, it might be a sign that your finances should be a priority in the new year. A great way to get started with your financial goals is to make an appointment with a financial planner.
A financial planner can help you achieve goals, plan for the future, and give you more detailed advice on challenges or questions you may have, as well as hold you accountable throughout the year.