The holidays are meant to be a joyous time, one of socializing, gift-giving and charity. Multiple holiday influencers, such as our faith, family and even the media, can impress upon us what celebrating the holidays mean and possibly lead us to overextend ourselves. The result can leave us recovering physically, emotionally, and often, financially. With a little forethought and discipline, though, we can bring in the New Year without suffering from a financial holiday hangover.
The first step is to establish a holiday budget. If married, be sure that this is a joint project with your spouse. Start with a gift list – who do you want to gift and how much do you want to spend on that gift. Be realistic with what you can afford and who warrants a gift. Don’t feel compelled to give one just because you receive one. Most importantly, stay focused on the meaning behind your gift, rather than the price tag. Your recipient will value the thought and care you gave.
The budget doesn’t stop with gifts. Consider all the non-typical expenses that arise during the holiday season; décor, food for entertaining, tips for preferred vendors, dry-cleaning for the holiday parties, hostess and host gifts or dinner tabs, and travel. Also, don’t forget about charitable giving. Including this in your budget will deter you from being influenced by emotion and possibly overextending yourself.
Clearly, when all is considered, this can be quite an extensive budget. Ideally, you want to start saving in January as the last thing you want to do is use a credit card to cover these expenses. For those who find it difficult to stick to their budget, utilizing cash or prepaid cards can help you stay on track. There are many tools available if you’re willing to use them.
This may sound like a lot, but a little forethought and discipline can go very far for you. I wish a happy and healthy holiday season to all. More than that, though, I wish you a happy and healthy new year, free from the financial holiday hangover.