The calendar may say October, but we can see it on the horizon already. The Holidays. We bring enormous expectations into the holiday season. We anticipate the holidays will bring happiness and good cheer, but sadly, often the result is a heavy and unnecessary debt burden. How can we alleviate some of the stress and strain of the holiday season? By planning ahead.
“Hey,” you ask. “Are we talking about budgeting again?”
Early planning takes the
stress and strain out of
In a word - YES.
But another important part of debt management is preparing for out-of-the-ordinary expenses, like the holidays. As a CAF client you’re already half-way there. As you follow your Credit Advisors Foundation debt management plan, you have put your everyday budgeting plans and debt management goals into the hands of experts. Good for you!
You have also been learning about the budgeting process through your program and reading the Defeat Debt newsletter. You already know how to budget for those unexpected expenses without going further in debt.
You can do that for the holidays as well.
Taking the time to plan ahead, forecasting, and anticipating needs and tapping into our creativity are helpful ways to reduce the seasonal price tag.
Just where should you start?
Setting a little aside every month is ideal. However, if you didn’t start setting aside a little last January, it’s not too late. There are still some things you can do now.
First, don’t wait any longer.
Use that budgeting know-how and your ideas and begin the process now. Review last years holiday expenses. Understand where your money is likely to go. Choose which expenses to reduce or to avoid. If you will be exchanging gifts, begin your list as soon as possible.
Gifts were, most likely, the single greatest expense category in your holiday budget last year. (OK, so you didn’t have a budget last year. Let it go. This year doesn’t have to be that way.) Once you’ve made your initial list of who will receive a gift, review it again. Now is the time to get tough.
Eliminate as many gifts as possible. Come on, wouldn’t a card suffice for your 4th cousin, twice removed? Or how about a gift of your time? Eliminate or lower the cost of the remaining list. Be creative!
Here are some ideas: draw names for a gift exchange, pitch in for group gifts, give handmade gifts (kitchen gifts are always a happy-maker) or personalized coupons for time and talent. Give yourself a budget limit for each gift. Have a White Elephant (those gifts you got last year but could have done without) Holiday Gift Exchange. Forego gifts altogether and simply spend time with family.
Have a family meeting or contest for ideas of ‘free’ or low-cost activities everyone can enjoy during the holidays. Or better yet, volunteer time as a family with a local charitable organization. Remember, as the holidays approach, the time to organize and arrange a gift for less money becomes more difficult.
As you develop your budget don’t forget to consider other holiday expenses. Electric cost increases for lighting for example, or wrapping, cards, entertainment, food, inside/outside decorating, and travel.
Once you’ve got your budget and plan, the hard work is done and you’re ready to go.
Next...make a visit to Kid’s Korner above for ideas and help on the comparison shopping portion of our holiday preparations.
Oh! And take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy.
You’re ahead of the game!