Avoid the Rush (11/03/2015)

As October seems to have gone by at warp speed, we find the holiday season rapidly approaching.  While many can feel overwhelmed, with good planning, the season can be enjoyed both personally and financially.  Setting a realistic holiday budget and making sure to stick to it are the first steps to a more affordable and less stressful season. 

Make a list of holiday purchases and events you plan to spend money on this year.  This could include gifts, entertaining, meals and travel.  Look at what you spent money on last year.  Write down a spending limit for each item.  Too often we are in a rush to get things done at the last minute and this can cause serious overspending that will come to haunt you in early 2016.  

Do your research for gifts you would like to buy and often you may be able to find deals and coupons to get you the best price.  Get creative.  Consider giving the gift of your time in cases where that may apply.  You could help someone out with a task or project.  Simply giving your time to someone may allow them the freedom to get something else done or take a break.  Time really is our most valuable asset and could be more meaningful and appreciated.

If you’re in the position to gift to charities, you can be helping out yourself as well as the charity.  Often charitable donations are tax deductible and you feel good about yourself by giving.   Instead of excessively spending on each other, join forces with family and friends to help those that are less fortunate.  Online opportunities are easy to find if you need ideas.

Traveling can be quite expensive this time of year and costs will most likely be increasing daily for transportation.  Take some time to determine how much it will cost.  Flexibility in the days you travel could help.  Try to keep your options open and don’t force something to work that does not.

In the end, the holidays are all about enjoying friends and family. Staying focused on time with loved ones and other joys of the season can help you to keep stress in perspective.  Remember that it’s much better to keep spending down and stick to your budget.  It’s a great feeling to start off the New Year on the right financial foot.

Lisa A. Dugan

November 3, 2015