5 Tips to Financially Prepare for the Holidays

Fall is upon us, football season has begun, and school is back in session. NOW is the ideal time to prepare financially for the holidays. Do yourself a favor and commit to not extending holiday debt into the new year! #noholidaydebtin2017 We’ll give you a start with 5 tips to financially prepare for the holidays.

1. Make Your Budget and Gift List Now

The holidays are a great time of year, but from a financial standpoint, the holidays can be really expensive. We are not just talking about gifts, but also food, travel, clothing, decorations, holiday cards, activities, and donations. If you’re not careful, you may end up purchasing random items for yourself while out shopping for others. November and December are likely two of the most expensive months of the year spending-wise. Planning in advance gives you some structure and discipline, just like having a shopping list for grocery shopping. It also allows you the benefit of time to take advantage of discounts. Flights, for example, typically get much more expensive a month before the travel date. Try to purchase flights months in advance to get the best pricing. Make a gift list with all people you plan on purchasing gifts for (don’t forget those unfortunate folks with late December/early January birthdays). Set a budget amount for each on of them and brainstorm possible gifts. Then list all of the additional expenses (travel, food, decorations, cards, donations) that you will incur during the holidays and set a budget for them.

 

2. Set aside money now and automate it

Many banks, especially online banks, allow customers to open additional savings accounts with no charge or additional paperwork. You can name your accounts and separate your emergency fund from your holiday savings.

Reminder: The holidays do not qualify as an emergency. Do not co-mingle or withdraw from your emergency fund for holiday expenses you could have planned for in September and October.

Set up a separate holiday savings account. Based on your regular monthly budget and your holiday budget from above, create scheduled deposits go into this account (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). The most effective way to save is setting up automatic deposits on payday.

3. Communicate with your family and friends

It’s important that you communicate early with your family and friends about expectations for the holidays. If you are struggling financially and are trying to get back on track. There’s no shame in that. If you were sick or injured, would your family have the same daily expectations of you? No! They would do whatever they could to support you getting well. The holidays should be about spending quality time and creating lasting memories with the ones you love, not spending money you don’t have buying trinkets your family and friends don’t need! If your family member told you, “Hey, one of my goals for 2016 is to get my finances under control, so I’m not going to be spending much on Christmas gifts, can we do <insert activity> together instead?” Would that make you feel underappreciated? Of course not. Communicate expectations early, you may be surprised that they are likely in the same boat and just didn’t want to say it.

4. Black Friday is a Scam. Period. Full Stop.

Let’s be clear. Spending all day Thursday giving thanks for who and what we already have to then sit outside of a retail store at the crack of dawn the VERY NEXT DAY to buy stuff we don’t need defies all common sense. The truth is many retailers steadily raise their prices from October through December only to reduce them temporarily to make consumers feel like they are getting a deal. Even the items that do have deep discounts often have very limited quantity. So if you really want discounts, start looking in September and October before the prices go up so you don’t need to trample people to save $50 of an espresso machine.

5. Be Creative

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the reason for the season. If you think about some of the best gifts you’ve been given, they likely weren’t very expensive and if you’re really honest with yourself, the time you spent with your family and friends was much more valuable and memorable than the gifts. With that said, creativity is often lost during the holidays because of the time crunch at the end of the year. We often end up with a bevy of gift cards. Starting early and getting creative can take many forms. Secret Santas, homemade gifts, family movie night, volunteering activities are just a few examples.

Let's resolve not to bring holiday debt into the new year! #noholidaydebtin2017 Click To Tweet

If we plan in advance, automate savings, communicate with loved ones, avoid scams and get creative we can leave our holiday spending in 2016, enjoy and give ourselves the gift of no additional debt in 2017.

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