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‘Tis the season…for budgeting. Part one.December 5, 2016 Family, Life Events, Lifestyle, Living Well, Planning Well
The holiday season is upon us. During this festive time, we are thinking about family, friends, parties, presents and budgets. Even though we promise ourselves to not leave shopping to the last minute and to avoid the gloom that January credit card bills bring, we find ourselves panicking last minute and spending too much, too late in the season. We asked some of our advisors if they had any tips and tricks on how to avoid holiday stress, here is part one:
The holiday shopping plan
Holiday cheer leads to January…debt!? If this sounds familiar, consider taking a ‘financial planning’ approach to your holiday spending this year in order to avoid the ultimate holiday hangover – the dreaded January credit card bill.
Having a plan is never a bad thing. As with anything, the more organized you can be, the better. The first step is to look at your budget to assess how much you can afford to spend this season. There is no magic number, it’s best to go with an amount you feel comfortable with. Remember to include things like parties, travel expenses, decorations, in addition to gifts for family and friends.
Once you’ve figured out a total budget, break it down by category, and for each person on your gift list. If your list doesn’t balance with the total, you may have to make some adjustments. You might find that having an idea of how much to spend on each person even leads to some gift ideas – be sure to jot down them down as you go. Having a detailed list will help avoid overspending without realizing it, and give you a better chance of sticking to your overall budget. It might also help to avoid aimless wandering in busy stores at the last minute.
If you do find yourself stumped for a gift at the last minute, consider looking beyond traditional items. A dinner out, tickets to a show, game, or the museum, or even a weekend away could go a lot further than some trinket that may just end up cluttering someone’s house. Alternatively, a contribution to a grandchild’s RESP or savings account would be a gift appreciated by both the grandchild and their parents. If you find your budget is a little tight this year, consider something homemade – a home-cooked meal is often appreciated, as are baked goods, a night of babysitting for some friends, etc. Don’t be scared to get creative.
Finally, remember to consider those less fortunate at this time of year by setting aside a portion of your holiday gift budget to make a donation to charity. If you can’t find room to make a cash donation, why not volunteer at a homeless shelter to serve a meal or local food bank? This could also be a good idea for that person on your list who has everything – make a donation in their honour to their favourite charity, or suggest you go out together to volunteer and then have a lunch afterward.
The best part is, once you go through this process the first time, you’ll have it in place for future years. And who knows, perhaps your holiday shopping plan will inspire you to consider putting together a full financial plan, in order to feel more comfortable and confident with the rest of your financial life. We’ll save that one for your January resolution list, though.
3Macs, a division of Raymond James Ltd.
The best gifts are from the heart
It’s hard to believe we’re on the eve of the holidays already, but here we go again. The holiday season is a special time for you and your families, but it can also be stressful. Let’s face it – the holidays tend to be one of the most expensive times of year. Following some easy tips means that it doesn’t have to be.
Here are three simple suggestions that may help you keep your budget under control and your stress levels manageable this year:
- Don’t wait until the last minute
- Create a list of people you want to give to
- Determine an appropriate budget
These items seem simple enough, and they are. They’ll also help you save money. Giving you time to buy the appropriate gifts will keep your stress levels in check. I’ve learned this the hard way many times, so take it from me – do not wait until December 23 to cram your shopping in. Creating a list of people you want to give to will keep you organized and prevent you from buying unnecessary items. Determining a budget that makes sense for you before you begin will also prevent you from spending more than you wanted or needed to.
Remember the best gifts come from your heart and don’t have to be pricey. So follow these suggestions if you feel they’ll help you, spread some holiday cheer and enjoy the holidays with your families.
Holidays of past don’t have to set the stage for the present or future
The New Year is a time when many look ahead at their financial goals. When facing a spike in credit card debt from holiday spending, it can be difficult to stay positive.
Years ago, I was working with a single mother faced with this very problem. When we looked at her situation, I reminded her that, ‘debt is spending tomorrow’s income’ and then asked her a few questions:
- Why do you feel you have to spend more during the holidays?
- What creative ways could you approach the holidays so that you don’t overspend?
- When you think back on your special holiday memories, which do you remember most – stuff or experiences?
This changed the conversation to not how to save more so that she could spend more, but instead to how could she create more holiday experiences with her family?
The next year, she called me right before the holidays and gave me a special ‘thank you.’ She was so excited because she had paid off her credit card debt, had managed to save enough for this year’s holidays and was excited because she had some special experiences planned with her children and family. She was now in control of her finances and it all went to back to the conversation at the beginning of the year. Don’t underestimate the value of a few good questions and reflecting on your past in order to make different decisions in the future