By: Eric Tyson
The holidays are upon us, bringing all those images and sensations we cherish—the glow of the menorah, the fragrance of home-cooked meals and sugar cookies, and the sounds of the season in holiday songs, laughter, and shrieks of joy from kids discovering Santa’s generosity. But for many of us there are a few not-so-joyous holiday sights (a purse overflowing with credit card receipts) and sounds (the ca-ching! of the cash registers marking our escalating debt). These negatives can easily outweigh all that we love about the holiday season, especially when we consider the financial consequences we’ll still be suffering long after the last gift is opened.
Guess what? You don’t have to join in the spending frenzy. What if you could have a wonderful, memorable holiday and avoid the financial hangover afterwards? Here are great tips on how to keep your holiday spending in check.
Find an alternative to gift-giving during the holidays. There are plenty of great ways to trade in this tradition for another one that is even more meaningful, and chances are your family and friends will be happy to save gift-buying dough as well. Instead of exchanging gifts, your family might want to pool their money and spend the money on a holiday outing.
If you must buy gifts, cut your expenses elsewhere. Perhaps you’d rather dine out or go to the movies less, or maybe you can forego that new pair of shoes you’ve been wanting for yourself in order to afford gifts for the grandparents. It doesn’t matter where you make cuts, just that you make them.
Set a budget and keep tabs on what you are spending. While you’re doing your holiday shopping, your new best friends should be your checkbook register, credit card statements, and all of your receipts. It’s easy to get into a spending rhythm when shopping for yourself or others, and that’s why you need to physically write down every purchase you make and make sure you don’t go over your budget.
Leave the plastic at home. Use your budget to figure out how you can purchase the gifts you want to purchase without putting them on your credit card. If you are so cash-strapped that you think it will be difficult to avoid charging gifts, then you may want to sit down with other friends and family and propose a limit to how much gifts can cost this year—or propose no adult gift exchanges at all.
Invest in your kids’ financial futures. Have the grandparents contribute to a college tuition fund or savings account rather than buy them more stuff they don’t need. Or make one of your gifts to your kids a stock fund portfolio that can start accruing now.
Money can easily become the focus of the holidays when it should be the last thing you are thinking about. By keeping your spending under control, you can have a great holiday and avoid the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that occurs when you start getting those credit card bills in the mail. If you prepare properly, you can achieve a happy balance of spending and saving during the holiday season. That’s a great gift in and of itself, for both you and the people you love.
Eric Tyson, MBA, author of, Let’s Get Real About Money! Profit from the Habits of the Best Personal Finance, available in bookstores nationwide and from all major online. For more information, please visit www.ftpress.com.