It feels to me as though the Holidays will be here and gone before we know it! Really, where has the time gone this year? This year I am taking extra care to spend time with friends and family, enjoying our favorite holiday traditions. (Speaking of - if you are in the Hampton, NH area and would like to donate your Christmas tree to our annual Bonfire, we can always use more kindling!) Even so, the Holiday giving season is not without its counterpart – the Holiday spending season…
Amidst the cookie making and gift wrapping and caroling, there is one important item to add to your list: create a Holiday spending plan. I’m sure there are some of us who already have gifts wrapped and under our trees for everyone on our list, but for those of you like me, these next couple of weeks are crunch time! Which means inevitable chaos and a mad frenzy of finishing gift shopping, running to the grocery store a dozen times, and one get-together after another.
It can be overwhelming! It can also be alarmingly expensive if you’re not careful. Take control of your wallet now in order to avoid unnecessary credit card debt or the even more dangerous pitfall of borrowing against your retirement savings account later.
Here are a few ways you might avoid some of the financial stress this Holiday season
- SET A BUDGET
Start by determining the total amount of money that you should budget for gifts. Be aware, this number may not be the same as what you want to spend on gifts for your loved ones. Now is the time to be realistic and make careful evaluations about the current state of your finances.
- STICK TO THAT BUDGET
All that careful planning will do you no good if it is forgotten as soon as you log onto Amazon!
- GET RADICAL
You know yourself better than anyone; should you be putting your credit cards in the freezer until January so you aren’t tempted to spend more than you actually have?
- SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS
Or your confirmation emails and keep track of the checks you made out for the local fire department, that Venmo transaction you sent for your daughter’s classroom gift – you get the idea. Keep track of ALL your spending and check in on yourself frequently. Did you spend more than you planned on wrapping paper and ribbon? What about that impromptu holiday office gathering? What steps should you take to get back on track?
- THINK PERSONALLY
Before you get ready to hit the mall, make a list of all the people you will be buying gifts for this year and write down ideas for each person. Set an amount that you will spend for each person on the list- if your original idea is too expensive, seek an alternative gift.
- THINK CREATIVELY
Some of the best gifts need not cost a fortune! A tin of homemade cookies or a favorite photo printed out and framed can go a long way. Or maybe now is finally the time to take up stamp-making! Personalized stationary is really making a come back (or so I’ve heard…) And if you are hosting a party, don’t forget the fun and budget-friendly potluck option!
- TALK ABOUT IT
No one likes to talk about money or holiday budgeting, but when there seems to be a party every weekend, a never-ending list of gift to buy, and stress-levels are mounting, a good chat might be just the solution. Families and friends can decide together how much they can and should spend this holiday season on entertaining, decorations, travel and food. Perhaps a family game night is just as exciting as that expensive dinner out.
Take the time now to either create your Holiday spending strategy, or to revisit the plan you made in that post-turkey bout of inspiration. Spend less time worrying about future debt and more time with the people who make the season worthwhile!
And a Happy Everything from your friends at Personal Financial Strategies!
Information in this material is for general information only and not intended as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult the appropriate professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation prior to making any financial decision. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.