If you do most of your shopping in stores, the holiday season seems to start earlier every year.
We may cringe at seeing Christmas decorations well before Halloween, but don’t wait for that as a cue to start setting aside some money for gifts, especially if you buy for everyone in a big family or you prefer to give pricey presents.
With some discipline, common sense and banking tools, it really is possible to prepare more financially for shopping season. Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help, even if you haven’t started yet.
- Timing is important. Obviously, starting to save soon after Christmas and keeping it up throughout the whole year is ideal, but it’s not just the timing of saving that matters. If you can pick up the occasional gift during the spring, summer and fall months, and look for good deals, you’ll be ahead of the game even if you do nothing else.
- Automate your saving. Most banks have electronic features to help you funnel funds into savings every month, through mobile or online banking. Your employer might even have an option to set this up with your direct deposit. Pay attention to rates too, because interest earnings can help. At Wilson Bank, for example, our Christmas Club account — created specifically for shopping season — has one of our highest interest rates for short-term saving.
- Use those rewards. Some checking accounts these days aren’t just free, they can help you earn extra cash. And if you’re able to use a credit card regularly without missing any payments, your bank or card company probably offers reward points for cash or merchandise, which can be especially useful during the holidays. Just don’t allow credit card interest to pile up, or your intention to save money will have the opposite effect.
- Add savings behind your own back. A bonus or raise is a great opportunity to squirrel away money that isn’t already allocated for monthly expenses, and if you immediately move those funds to savings, you’ll never miss them.
Happy “way-too-early” holidays, and happy saving.
Beth Palk is the office manager at the Cool Springs office of Wilson Bank & Trust. Wilson Bank is a member of the FDIC.