Strategies to help you stick to holiday budget
The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet they often lead to overspending and stress. Many people end up with a credit card hangover in January. Being proactive can help break the cycle.
With just a little effort, the following think-out-of-the-box strategies will result in a happier holiday season and a healthier bank account.
Give experiences to defer the expense to a month in early 2017. Experiences involve spending time with family and friends. Time spent together is richer than any material gift. It also provides memories that will be enjoyed for years to come.
Another significant benefit: If you give a visit to the zoo, a museum, or a concert in early 2017, you can defer the expense until then. This helps spread out expenses.
Taking the family to breakfast, lunch or dinner after the holidays results in anticipation, and often anticipation is a large part of the fun. How about treating the family to a meal (or a day trip, weekend away, etc.) for Valentine’s Day? Now the expense is deferred to February.
If you still want to buy traditional gifts for family and friends, be smart about it. Take an evening to plan the gifts you want to buy. Make a list and check it twice.
Leave your credit card at home. Many studies have shown that we spend much more when using a credit card than when using cash. If you set your gift-buying budget at $200, put $200 in an envelope and use it to pay for gifts. When the envelope is empty, you are done shopping.
If you are buying online, sign up for the retailer emails and take advantage of the 20 percent to 25 percent discounts many online retailers provide. You can “opt out” as soon as the holidays are over.
Recognize that there is no relation between the amount of money you spend and the value of the gift in the eyes of the recipient.
Family members and true friends would probably rather have you stay within your budget, and they may appreciate setting a spending limit. Everyone tends to overspend during the holidays, so discussing limits ahead of time is a great idea.
Money can’t buy us love, and neither can expensive gifts.
Consider giving handmade gifts this year. How about a handwritten card telling the recipient how special they are to you? Or how about a monthly call to a far-away relative or a monthly visit to a neighbor?
If you are athletic, offer to get together for a walk (or a tennis match, a bike ride, etc.) each month in 2017. Or, perhaps getting together for lunch?
Consider writing down your favorite recipes and giving them to family and friends. If you have a green thumb, give a plant. If you have a hobby (woodworking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, beading, cooking) give gifts you have made.
Organize a gathering for 2017, and make your holiday gift an invitation to the first event.
Consider starting a monthly dinner club with a few family members or friends. Make it a potluck event so the work and expense is shared.
I suspect some people want family and friends to have “something to open.” Write the idea on a small card and wrap it in a big box. You will find that your “out of the box” gift is greatly appreciated, and your finances (and financial security) will be healthier.