The Most Expensive Time of the Year

 

Wow, I can’t believe it is that “expensive” time of the year again! Christmas is supposed to be the season to have fun while enjoying the holiday with family and friends. However, the cash crunch and credit card bills arriving in January seem to ruin the joy. It’s no wonder that the holidays are actually one of the most stressful times, especially from a financial perspective. Smart spending and creating a Christmas budget can reduce the financial burden and alleviate some of that unwanted stress. But let’s be real, its way too easy to get caught up in the shopping mania of this season and the expectations of friends and family . . . and find yourself in a freshly dug money hole in January. So when you’re out battling the holiday crowds and heading to social commitments with family and friends, consider your wallet and protect your budget with these simple tips:

 

Plan ahead

Create a budget, spending limits, and a list for holiday spending and gift giving in advance of buying.  Include possible gifts, dollar amounts and alternative choices.  Don’t forget expenses like holiday decorations, wrapping paper, cards and postage, plus extra food costs for parties and family gatherings.  Knowing how much you can truly afford to spend is a crucial first step in controlling costs.

 

Use cash and avoid credit cards when you can

Statistically, credit card users spend more than cash buyers because it is easier to over charge and go over your budget.

 

Shop smart

Use coupons, compare prices online and look for sales and clearance items. To save on children’s gifts, consider flea markets, yard sales and consignment stores.  Definitely avoid last minute shopping!

 

Do it online

Online auctions such as eBay are great places to find bargains, but be aware of how much similar items cost at retail.  Many retailers have clearance sections on their shopping sites where you can save big.

 

Get creative

Handmade craft items, special desserts or breads and other “goodies” can help stretch a holiday budget.  Use your skills or hobbies to make gifts. You can also consider a gift of your time and talent.

 

Avoid the budget busters

Don’t succumb to the commercial holiday triggers and ads.  Don’t give in to emotional pressures by sticking to your plan and using the tips above. Being organized and intentional can help you avoid those unplanned purchases and save time, money and stress.

 

Plan food for festivities

It’s surprising and often an uncalculated amount of money that goes into holiday eating. Traditional Christmas dinners, fruit cakes, reindeer cookies and eggnog are all a part of what make great memories over the holiday season. Being careful not to overbuy or duplicate items already in our cabinets is helpful. Letting others contribute such as bringing a complimentary dish or batch of goodies is both conservative and an added treat to the table.

 

Remembering the reason for the season helps put giving in perspective

One of the main reasons we get swept away into the automated buying frenzy during the holiday season is because product promoters hold our attention. Remembering that it is a business to capitalize on Christmas by presenting a buying sentiment helps us to redirect our priorities. Taking time to invest in the true meaning of Christmas can alleviate the pressure. As a family go to a Nativity scene, watch a Christmas play at church, rent a Hallmark movie about the true meaning of Christmas, etc.

Having a plan before the Christmas season “happens to you” and to the best of your ability following that plan will help you survive the holiday financially, and I pray give you fiscal peace. The benefit of employing even a few of the tips discussed can be worth a lot of money and stress.  It’s important to not lose your financial disciplines, improve your financial health and of course enjoy the holidays. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

 

Jeffery Masters, President of Jeffery W. Masters & Associates, Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC, Investment Advise offered through Independent Financial Partners,

a Registered Investment Advisor. Independent Financial Partners and Jeffery W. Masters & Associates are not affiliated with LPL Financial. Call 954-977-5150

Jeff Masters :