Let’s face it: between seasonal greeting cards, gifts, and sparkly clothes for festive parties, the holidays can be an expensive time of year for everyone. That is especially true for large families. I should know; I have one. With four children ranging in age from six to eighteen, I’ve had a few years to practice budgeting for the seasonal expenditures that come with the holidays. I thought I’d pass along a few of my tried and true tips.
It may be too late for Christmas 2012, but the expenses you’ll incur during the holidays should be budgeted for well before Christmas commercials start airing on TV. For example, my credit card offers one percent cash back on the purchases I make throughout the year. For that reason, I charge everything (including gas and groceries) to the card and pay the balance off in full each month. My cash back bonus accrues all year long and then I cash it out in December to use for Christmas shopping.
To supplement those funds, I also start setting aside a modest amount of money in July of each year. By the time December rolls around, my Christmas budget is established and I don’t have to worry where the money will come from.
Don’t get swept away in the moment
I know from experience how easy it is to be overtaken by tidings of comfort and joy, especially when the department stores have decked their halls and are making merry by blasting Christmas tunes from every overhead speaker. While it can be tempting to run up those credit card charges getting just the right things for everyone on your list, doing so could equate to stress come that January credit card statement. To avoid financial headaches, make a list and stick to it. Yes, even if it means passing on those adorable, fuzzy bunny slippers for your niece.
Don’t feel obligated to abide by “who to gift” lists
It seems like every magazine on the shelves publishes a list of who you should shop for. Those lists can be overwhelming—recommending that you give generously to everybody from the mailman to the dog groomer. While gifting is a wonderful gesture, you needn’t go into debt to show your appreciation. Which brings me to my next point…
Give simply and from the heart
Somewhere along the line, the true meaning behind the gift seems to have been lost. Giving shouldn’t be dictated by the recipient’s wish list, especially when that list is full of pricey iGadgets. Give what you can afford. And if you can’t afford much, give something personalized that will warm the heart. Something as simple as a mason jar filled with the recipient’s favorite hard candy along with a heartfelt note reflects the spirit of giving without breaking the bank.
Join e-mail lists
We all know that there are tons of bargains to be had this time of year. The tricky part can be nabbing one of those deals before they’re gone. One way to be in the know is to join your favorite retailers’ email lists. Often times, those preferred shoppers are the first to hear about special sales and promotions—some of which might last only hours before quantities disappear. Being in the know can equate to big savings.
Hopefully these tips will help keep your spending on track as we tiptoe into the most expensive, er... make that “merry” time of the year.
(Editor’s Note: Read Such the Spot every week at www.explorernews.com under Northwest Chatter.)