By: Charlestien Harris
The holiday spending race has begun, and you are ready to claim the prize for being the most prepared for the battle of the budget bulge, right? Is it just me, or does it feel like the holiday season pushes the starting line back earlier and earlier each year? I thought I saw a “Christmas in July” advertisement and realized we haven’t even made it to Thanksgiving yet!
The holiday spending season is officially upon us, and it will pay off greatly if you take a few precautions, such as creating a budget for the purchases you plan to make or the family trips you intend to take! While gifts make up the majority of your holiday spending, don’t forget the other costs that creep up on us, such as gas and food. Let’s explore some ways you might be able to trim some “fat” from your holiday spending habits.
- Be realistic about your budget. Having a good understanding of your personal finances is key to sticking to your plan when it comes to creating a holiday spending plan. You can give your credit card a rest if you carefully consider how to pay for more of your gifts with cash purchases. This move will save you those interest payments that add up from card purchases. Be careful not to dip into your “bill” money, as it will create a financial hole you’ll need to fill later when the bill comes due. Set a limit, stick to it, and remember, adhering to your budget is a good way to avoid debt and is an essential part of maintaining a healthy financial life.
- Give the gift of your time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this season of my life, it’s that time is a precious and invaluable gift. We often assume we have time to accomplish all we want in our lifetime. My advice is to take the time to express your care for loved ones. Give them a “piece” of yourself by offering to do something for a loved one that takes time to complete. Babysit for that relative who never seems to take a break. Cook a meal for the person who’s always in the kitchen preparing meals for others. Make a list of acts of kindness that cost nothing or very little for you to give a gift of love. Time, something we take for granted, could be a gift that won’t be forgotten and will be appreciated more than you know.
- Reuse and recycle whenever possible. Holiday decorations, gift wrap, greeting cards, and other items can be used and reused year after year with careful handling and packing at the end of the season. Look around your house for items that can be used for holiday wrapping, such as a brown paper bag or comic strip newspaper. You can also reuse gift bags, bows, and other items that can be “new” to the person receiving the gift. Customize gifts using markers and paints to create a unique look. Refurbished tech items can make great gift ideas. You can save significantly, but remember to shop from reputable sources. Ask tech-savvy individuals where they make their purchases; they can often guide you to reliable websites they use frequently.
- Plan your holiday travel early. The sooner you know you’re heading to Grandma’s house, the earlier you can determine your mode of transportation. Travel plans become expensive when left to the last minute. Book your travel as soon as you know the destination and try to keep the plans flexible. This allows for changes while still enjoying your holiday travels. Comparison shopping is helpful to find the best deals and take advantage of potential significant savings. Explore multiple travel websites to ensure you’re getting the best available options.
Holiday ads, social media posts, and marketing emails all entice you to buy more, but you can save more by carefully planning your purchases and creating a holiday budget. Resist temptation by avoiding these prompts and sticking to the plan you’ve created to make your holiday shopping experience more pleasant. The amount spent on holiday gifts can often exceed expectations and throw your budget out of balance well into the new year. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that time with loved ones is what truly matters. And unless I miss the mark, that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.
For more information, feel free to email me at Charlestien.Harris@banksouthern.com or call me at 662-624-5776.
Until next week – stay financially fit!