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Budgeting for the Holidays (and still enjoying it)

by Camille Stimach, Financial Coach and Budget Specialist, Peridot Consulting Inc.

It is hard to believe that we have almost reached the end of another year, granted the older I get the faster the years go. Seeing as we are almost at years end that means the holidays are upon us and we all know what that means; family, friends, company, gifts, dinners and lots of festivities. We also know that all this cost whether it be groceries, eating out, visiting family or friends out of town, lodging, parties, presents and I am sure there are events I am leaving out. The average American will spend around $1005.00 this holiday season. I don’t know about you, but I do not have 1000.00 lying around that I can just spend for the last month of the year. I am going to share with people some ways that they can save for the holidays and save for the following years holidays in advance. Seeing as we are one month away from Christmas it is going to be a little difficult to start saving but here are some things you can do that can save some money for this Christmas.

  • Before Thanksgiving gets here, make a detailed list of what your holiday expenses will be

  • Set a limit of what you want to spend in each area (gifts, food, eating out)

  • Make your shopping lists ahead of time

  • Do not impulse buy. For example, do not buy 5 seasonal lattes a day at Starbucks.

  • Take advantage of your credit card points and use those towards gifts or gift cards.

  • If you already know what you want to buy as gifts, shop around for the best deal on it.

  • If you are traveling, take advantage of your discounts if you have AAA, USAA, AARP or any points you might have saved on your credit cards and use them for rental cars or hotels.

  • If you are staying with family or friends encourage everyone how much more fun it would be to make meals at home instead of eating out.

  • Instead of buying gifts for all 40 family members, how about everyone is given a limit of 150-200 to spend on something really great and treat it like a white elephant type of gift giving except with serious gifts, not gag ones. Save those for the office parties.

  • Spend with sense when it comes to small children, they don’t actually do price checks on what you bought them so don’t go broke buying gifts for small children.

  • Teens like gift cards so they can buy what they want. Again, they are kids and you don’t need to go broke buying them things.

  • If you are the one preparing holiday meals don’t go nuts at the grocery store, shop at places like Aldi’s to save money. Your guests aren’t going to judge you on where you buy your food. If they do, I am not sure I would want them at my dinner table to begin with.

Save Your Receipts

One thing I would absolutely do is get yourself a little folder and everything you spend on holidays this year keep the receipts, so you can get an idea of how much you actually spend this time of year. This will be an eye opener for most.

Planning Ahead: how to save for the following years to come.

When I work with clients one of the things I have them do is to open an annual savings account. This account covers things like car expenses, birthday gifts, events, vision/medical/dental, property taxes, and things that don’t come up every month. What this account also covers is holiday expenses. My clients tell me what they usually spend around the holidays and we factor that in as a monthly expense into the annual savings account. So, if they say we spend around 1500 around the holidays (this includes gifts, food, eating out, etc..) then each month for 10 months they put aside 150 into their annual savings account so when holidays roll around, they have the money to pay for it.

What I don’t like to see happen is people enjoying the holidays and then sink into a state of panic, anxiety and depression because they just spent a crazy amount around the holidays and don’t have savings left or have high credit card balances; the latter being the most common. There is no rule that states we must spend a lot of money at the holidays. The people we spend money on are our family and friends and I doubt they care if we don’t spend our life savings on them. Now I will state like I do on my other blogs, if you have no debt, 3-6 months of savings, a retirement account and all your bills are paid on time then spend a little extra if you want but if you don’t have all these areas covered then use some self-control and spend wisely. I promise come January you will be glad you did.

Happy Holidays!!!

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