If there are two things that are universally challenging to deal with, it’s the holidays and money. These are two inescapable parts of life that are usually tied up with a mix of emotions, often tinged with memories both good and bad, and routinely attached to family members you maybe don’t want to hang out with. But instead of lamenting all the reasons why money and the holidays have let you down, let’s discuss one of the silver linings of their shared existence: saving money through holiday shopping discounts.
From the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the wallet-friendly rules of Secret Santa and White Elephant, there are a number of ways that your holiday spending can remain within a reasonable budget. And if you come into the good fortune of not spending as much as you anticipated during your gifting spree, then that savings can actually be a blessing. Don’t go blowing it on the latest tech gadget, or even a jug of eggnog. Instead, we suggest considering investing that money for your future—and hopefully more merrier—self.
“If you already have your emergency fund established and you don't have any other short-term goals, such as financial priorities coming up in the next two years, then my advice would be to first determine what you are investing for,” Priya Malani, resident financial expert at Refinery 29, says. “This will help you invest appropriately.”
As Malani mentioned, padding an emergency fund, paying down debts, or putting the money toward another pressing need should come first. But if you’re in the position to invest, holiday savings can be a smart way to get started.
“If you wind up with a lump sum of holiday savings, which can also come from gifts or a bonus, we’d say don’t wait! Go ahead and invest the money right away,” Malani says. “When it comes to investing, it's about time in the market, not timing the market. So get that money working harder for you before you accidentally spend it.”
The first thing you should do is make an outline of your financial goals. Then, determine an amount you’d like to invest so that you can still accomplish those benchmarks over time. Finally, find an investing platform that underscores those financial goals, while also allowing you to outline objectives for your portfolio, too. Malani calls this “goals-based investing,” and that’s the premise of Swell. By using an impact investing approach that selects its portfolio based on companies committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, your investments promote everything from cleaner water to fresher air, to better education, and more. Swell allows you to prepare for the future, with the future of the world in mind—all for $50 to start and no trading fees.
Once you’ve created a portfolio, Malani suggests automating investments monthly for the best long-term results. Then, relax.
“Investing is a way for your money to grow over time, not overnight—that’s gambling,” she says. “Don’t watch your investments and don’t listen to the news, that’s pretty much the worst thing you can do. Set it and forget it. If you’re properly diversified, the best thing you can do is to forget about the money for a few years.”
In other words, you can invest your holiday savings now, and then check in on it after a couple more gift-giving seasons pass by. As far as the holidays and money go, that’s as simple as it gets.