The Holiday$ are $tre$$ful!
The seven tips below will help you get through the holiday season without negating all the financial progress you have made. Ultimately though, it all comes down to the same thing: treat your holiday purchasing and spending the way you treat the rest of your financial life.
Make a list and check it twice.
Before the busy season really gets going, sit down and make a list. Write up all the things that could cost you money this holiday season. Include the people you need to buy gifts for, party contributions, and everything else I named above. Use a spreadsheet to make extra notes like where you will buy things, how much they will cost, and the timeline for doing it. Keep this list with you at all times and use it to plan out your evenings and weekends. If you can, buy everything from the same store in one trip, visit stores on the same side of town on one day, etc. Check off items or make new lists as you go along, so you always have an idea of exactly what you have left. If you plan to avoid surprises in everyday life, do the same thing here.
Consider group buying
If you give gifts to families (like your sister, her husband, and their two kids), consider giving one family gift, or one parent gift and one child gift, instead of four individual gifts. This can cut down on shopping and wrapping time and overall money spent. A favorite gift of mine is a couple of age-appropriate board games and box of popcorn or candy. For parents, you can give a bottle of wine and the promise of free babysitting. You can extend this idea to people in the same age group or with the same interests. Consolidate trips and save time by buying multiples of the same items at the same time, and distribute appropriately. If this tip makes you reconsider the list above, revise as necessary. Life is about finding efficiencies to keep us going, so this tip extends that idea to gift-giving.
Look for coupons and deals
Now that you have your list, start scanning newspapers and websites for ways to bring down your costs. That will give you some extra money in case you go over on some items, have unplanned expenses come up, or fall victim to some of those convenience costs I talked about earlier. You do it for grocery shopping. Why should holiday shopping be any different?
Set a budget and stick to it
Do not spend more than you can afford (if you’re putting it on credit, you can’t afford it)! Add up the items on your list and decide how much money you can set aside for holiday spending, then set a holiday budget. If the money you have available is less than what you need, rethink your list. This is just like the rest of your life. Spend less or earn more!
Don’t be afraid to say no
Be realistic about how much you can afford to spend...in terms of both money AND time! Holiday spending should not come at the expense of emergency or retirement savings. Holiday activities should not mean you fall into bed exhausted at 2 AM each night and neglect the needs of yourself or your family. You should give from the heart in a way that makes sense for you. And if that means some people just get cards or a box of cookies this year, or you miss the “awesome” party your neighbors throw every year, that’s ok!
Take five minutes every day to regroup
At the end of each day, take five minutes to regroup. Look over your list and see what you’ve accomplished. Get together a plan for the next couple of days. Look at your calendar to determine what events you have coming up. If you track your budget carefully, record today’s items. Then close your eyes and recharge, even if just for a moment. In life, a little strength goes a long way, and the same goes for the holiday season.
Learn lessons this year, and use them in the future
Nobody’s perfect. Even with the best planning, you might spend a little more than you’d like. But use lessons from this year to do better next year. Whether it’s planning with holiday spending earlier, saying yes to fewer invitations, keeping more frozen food available for quick meals, or going ahead and hiring that housekeeper, a lesson learned this year is time and money saved next year.
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– Lorraine Edey, PhD., LCW, AFC
Mental Health Specialist | E-Mail Lorraine