Authored by Pier Yvette Alsup, American Eagle Credit Union
Deck the halls with boughs, bells, and budget? Now that we are on the brink of what some may call “turkey and tinsel” season, and are spending money on holiday cheer, money matters must be discussed. With celebrations, travel, and gift-giving kick into high gear, it’s important not to forget your finances!
Pier is sharing 7 Holiday Budget Tips to Keep you in the Black, so that you can truly enjoy this most wonderful time of the year without going broke.
Decide how much you can spend.
Holiday money should come from your current disposable income. If you plan to spend money you don’t have, prepare for bills that could take months to repay. If you haven’t saved some “holiday money” to supplement your spending on gifts, celebrations and travel, cut back on extras such as movies, dinners out or coffee drinks until the holidays are over. There are always things you can trim.
Budget for EVERYTHING.
Gifts, wrapping paper, decorations, food and drink for parties – those you host and those you attend. Create a budget for everything you will be buying, and we mean everything. Greeting cards, postage, shipping, travel expenses. Even apparel for parties, concerts and events, and don’t forget those end-of-year charitable contributions.
Make a gift list.
…and check it twice! Your list should include everyone – family, friends, teachers, co-workers, even personal trainers and mail carriers. Anyone you plan to acknowledge during the holidays and any gift exchanges in which you participate should be on the list.
Set a budget for each gift on your list.
Set a firm “no more than” amount for that gift, and stick to it. If money is tight, consider designations such as “card-only” and “make or bake”. Gifts from the heart are welcome and appreciated, so don’t underestimate them!
Set expectations with your family, especially children.
If gifts and celebrations will be minimal … or less than last year … share that with your family. Setting expectations will help eliminate disappointment as well as gift-giving guilt. You can also use this time to discuss alternative gift-giving options such as hand-made gifts, grab-bags, name exchanges or skipping gifts altogether.
There are always sales to be found, and by starting your shopping early, you can eliminate crowds, provide more selection and reduce pressure and over-spending.
Finally … keep track of spending.
Keep your receipts and keep your gift list handy and updated. It’s too easy to veer from it, if not! Credit cards are a safe and convenient way to shop, however it is very easy to stretch your budget when using them. If you are using credit cards, consider treating them like your debit card. Hold a weekly reckoning of your credit card receipts and make a payment to your credit card account equal to the amount you spent. Doing this will also remove the temptation to spend the dollars you have in your account that will be used to pay your credit card next month.
The most important thing is to remember the reason for the season. It is not about how much money you have or how much you buy, but the time spent with loved ones. That gift is totally priceless!
For more information on financial wellness, budgeting and useful calculators, visit the American Eagle Credit Union website today. Or, visit their HowDoYouCU blog for more great insights.