Ah, November. Pumpkin spice is in the air, winter romance is trending on Netflix, and the holidays are just around the corner. After the year we’ve had, we’re all ready for some holiday cheer.

Maybe a little too ready.

Before you launch full-blast into holiday shopping mode, now’s the perfect time to take a step back and see where you stand financially—so you can get ahead of the holidays and make the most of them this year without going overboard . 

Step 1. Know where your finances stand today

First, take stock of your complete financial picture: your bank balance, credit cards, loans, and savings. If you’re using Simplifi, the app keeps all that information together in one dashboard, so you’ll always know where you stand. 

That’s an important part of the picture, but it still isn’t everything. It only tells you where you are right now, today. It doesn’t tell you where you’re headed. 

For that, you need historical data too, so you’ll know if your balances have been moving in the right direction. And, ideally, you’ll want some cash projections, so you know where your bank balance is going to be at the end of the month.

That’s why Simplifi gives you:

  • monthly reports that show you how you’re doing
  • cash flow projections to show where your bank balance is headed
  • net worth reports that show you how your net worth is trending
  • and so much more 

When you connect all your accounts to Simplifi, the app runs those calculations automatically so you can see anything you want to know at a glance.

Step 2. Understand what you can afford to spend

Simpifi adds up your monthly income, then gathers your monthly bills and subscriptions and subtracts those out. What’s left is the money you can afford to spend on other things. 

Your spending plan keeps up with that money as you spend it, so you can always see how much you have left.

But there are always a few monthly expenses that aren’t technically bills—like groceries. To get a feel for your average grocery budget, check out your spending report in the Simplifi reports section and filter it to show you just the Groceries category. 

You can use report filters to see any kind of spending you want. But an even easier way to get a high-level feel for where your money goes is to check out your monthly summary report. 

It shows you everything you earned and spent last month, and it also shows which categories and payees you spent the most money on when it comes to things besides your monthly bills.

Using Simplifi’s advanced reports is a great way to understand your big-picture finances on a month-to-month level. It can also help you find places to save, so you can afford to spend even more on the holidays over the next couple of months.

Step 3. Lock in your holiday money with planned spending

Once you’ve decided how much you want to spend on the holidays, create a Holiday category so you can lock in that amount and let Simplifi track it in your spending plan. 

Here’s how it works.

Create your new Holiday category in your Simplifi settings, under Categories. 

Then, go to your spending plan. Click on Planned spending and click the + Add expense button.

Choose One-time expense if you just want to track it this month, or choose Monthly expense if you want to track it over the next couple of months. (You can always delete it from your planned spending when the holidays are over.)

Select your new Holiday category, add your amount, and click Create.

Now, as you spend money on the holidays, make sure you include those transactions in your Holiday category. 

Simplifi will earmark your designated funds for Holiday spending and keep track of it for you. It will even build that money into your spending plan so you don’t spend it on other things by mistake.

Step 4. Track your holiday spending with custom tags 

Since Simplifi is keeping track of all your holiday spending, you don’t have to complicate things by creating tons of subcategories like holiday gifts, holiday lights, holiday cards, etc. 

But you might want to keep an eye on a few specific areas, like making sure you’re not going overboard on presents. The easiest way to do that is to create custom tags.

Tags can be literally anything you want, to track anything you care about. They’re not tied to categories, so they’re perfect for organizing your money in unique ways.

For example, let’s say you want to track how much you’re spending on your holiday presents. 

In your Simplifi settings, create a tag called Presents. You can even call it Presents 🎁 if you want, complete with the emoji.  

When you buy something for someone else this holiday season, put it in your Holidays category to make sure your planned spending includes it, and tag it Presents 🎁. 

Now, you’ll be able to make sure your holiday spending stays on track while also keeping an eye on your gift giving in particular.

Step 5. Stay on top of your holiday finances the easy way with Simplifi

Simplifi’s flexibility lets you stay on top of your holiday spending however you want to.

For a quick glance at your holiday budget progress, check out your spending plan and see what’s left in your holiday “bucket.” Simplifi tracks it automatically.

For an easy way to see how much you’re spending on those presents, create a watchlist for your Presents 🎁 tag. Simplifi will keep up with that too. 

Or go to your spending report where you can see your spending breakdown by category or tag, whichever you want to see.

Plus, Simplifi’s alerts can notify you when your spending is close to the limits you’ve set. 

Under Settings>Notifications, take a look at these:

  • Planned expense nearing or over limit
  • Watchlist approaching or over target

You can turn them each on or off separately, and you can even edit them. The default is set to send you an alert when you’re within 10% of your limit, but you can change that to be something more like 20% or 30% if you want to get that alert when your limit is still a bit farther away.

Rinse and repeat (and wave goodbye to 2020)

Now that you have your Holiday category and your Presents 🎁 tag set up, you’re all ready to use them next year.

You can even set up a 2021 holiday savings goal and start contributing to it a full year in advance if you’re feeling ambitious.

Of course, the best thing about this holiday season will be New Year’s, when we finally get to wave goodbye to 2020. But stepping into 2021 on top of your finances and ahead of the game will only make it that much sweeter.