Most articles about holiday spending and budgeting focus on giving gifts. Of course, I’ve already written several of the same! This week, though, I want to talk about how to stay on budget if you’re traveling for the holidays.
There are many costs associated with holiday travel. Whether you’re traveling by plane, bus, train, or car, the costs can get out of hand if you’re not careful. Here are some basic rules you can follow to keep your expenses low.
I know you know that prices sky rocket as the holidays get closer. Yes, flights and other modes of travel will always be somewhat more expensive around a holiday, but you can save some money if you time it right. Typically, you can get the best price if you buy a flight in early October. From there, prices slowly climb, and they are the highest in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. So plan ahead and book your tickets earlier rather than later.
Like with everything, if you have few options to choose from, you’ll be more inclined to spend extra money. The same goes for food at places like the airport or train station. Meals and snacks are marked up to a lot more than you would pay normally. It will save you quite a bit of money if you don’t buy airport food. Plus, most airport food is very unhealthy. So kill two birds with one stone and pack your meals and snacks. This will also prevent you from getting hangry and splurging on food you wouldn’t otherwise want to eat.
One of the hardest things about money is talking about it with friends and family, I know. But it’s also one of the most important things you can do. If you need to stay on a strict budget during the holidays, don’t hide that fact. Let your loved ones know that you want to stick to more affordable activities while you’re in town. That way, you won’t have to flake on plans or feel stressed when you overspend. Together, you can come up with ways to spend time together that don’t cost a lot of money for either of you. You can have just as much quality time even if you aren’t spending money. This way, you’ll get to spend time with your loved ones and save some money. And since the holidays can be very expensive, your loved ones will probably thank you for saving them money too!
It’s not always fun, but the number one way to stay on budget is to track your spending. Personally, my spending can get a little out of hand if I’m not in my normal routine. It can get even worse if I’m seeing friends and family that I don’t get to see very often. However, if I’m paying attention to each purchase I make, I’m much more likely to spend less. So while you’re home for the holidays (or otherwise traveling), track your spending. Download an app like Clarity Money or even keep a little notebook with you. When you see that you’re getting close to your spending limit, alter your plans so you don’t go too overboard.
If you stay on budget around the holidays, you’ll set yourself up for a healthy start in the new year. Though it’s not very fun to watch your spending, you’re doing yourself a favor. Happy holidays!
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.