What’s a system I can use when doing my holiday shopping?

The holidays can be a time of sensory overload – so much to do, so many events, lights, and people — that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. And, when people are stressed, it’s easy to overspend. To avoid spending more money than you want during the holidays, take time to create a spending plan system that works for you!

What do I need for an effective holiday spending system? I need:

  • To know how much money I want to spend;
  • To know who or what I want to spend money on;
  • A way to track spending; and
  • A way to keep track of what I’ve purchased.

Before you start shopping, think about what kind of system would work best for you. Do you like a(n):

  • app,
  • envelope,
  • small book,
  • budget sheet?

Any of these, and others, can work. Creating a holiday spending system can give you peace-of-mind and help you control your spending, including how much you charge on credit cards. For a free, one page, holiday spending plan form to help you go to http://go.illinois.edu/holidaymoney and click on Control Holiday Credit Card Debt.

Written by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

How can I successfully achieve my goals?

Creating a savings goal is commonly confused with creating a dream. For example, when asked to create a savings goal for a vacation trip or a car, their response is “I want to go to [location]” and “I want to have a [car model]”. This only represents what individuals want (a dream) without creating a reasonable process (savings goal) to achieve the end product.

That being said, we peer educators at the Financial Wellness Extension advocate, within our budgeting presentation, S.M.A.R.T. Goals. When creating a savings goal, it is important that you incorporate all 5 of these components: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific: Making your goal well defined where it can be clear to anyone who has a basic knowledge of your project

Measurable: Creating an easy way to keep track of your goals that allow it to be motivational to achieve

Agreed Upon: In cases when your goal involves others, collaborate and make sure that everyone acknowledges the goal

Realistic: This allows your goal to be results-oriented and reasonable seeming accomplishment is within sight

Timely: Create a timeline when this goal will be achieved. Being able to track your progress encourages you to continue and see that the effort is effective

Written by Rex Wang, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

How do I lower my weekly food costs?

If you’re struggling to keep your personal food costs down, there are several ways to cut your spending while still getting the most bang for your buck.  A good way to start reducing your own personal food costs is to first track your spending on food for a period of time—week, month, etc.—and see the amount of food you spend.  Ask yourself a few questions such as how much you spend on at-home cooking and eating out?  What do you spend more on?  Do you find yourself in need of eating out more or eating at home?  Once you figure out your personal expenses and answer these questions, you can start to sort out way to minimize them.

There are quite a few ways you can cut your costs on food such as:

  • Going out to eat less. According to The Huffington Post, the third largest way students waste their money is by eating out too much. If you cut back on your expenditures while you eat out or become more aware of the prices of food you are eating that is a large point of spending for many people.
  • Cooking with a friend. If you are eating meals with more than one person it is typically more economical to cook food, reducing the cost per head for food.  If you live with roommates, shop together and buy certain items together that you know you would not finish on your own which can also reduce food waste.
  • Utilizing sales and coupons. Saving a few cents on several items can quickly add up and give you more money to spend elsewhere.
  • Buying staple items in bulk. Many non-perishables can be bought in bulk at cheaper prices thus reducing your average costs on them and resulting in you visiting the store less often.
  • Shopping at cheaper retailers. This can give you the opportunity to buy most traditional items for a cheaper price.
  • Freezing fresh produce. This can extend how long fresh produce lasts and can reduce food waste in general.

If you take small steps in your day-to-day life it is very possible to reduce your food costs resulting in an overall reduction in your expenses.  Good luck!

Written by Libby Cocagne, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.