The holidays are a very special time of the year. Tis the season for: sharing and caring, family and friends, carols, twinkling lights, parties, and presents. The holidays can also be stressful too; the planning, the decorating, the baking and the shopping. It is a time when it is easy to overspend, often times paying for purchases well into the new year. Here are some tips can help keep spending under control, especially during these hard economic times.
Before the holidays begin, set a spending budget and stick to it. Be realistic. Plan to spend no more than 1 to 5 percent of your net income. When making your spending plan include all holiday expenses such as gifts, wrapping paper, cards and postage, decorations, clothing, travel, parties, holiday food and entertainment. If it is necessary to cut back on spending, communicate that with your family. Families should discuss what is important to them during this season and be willing to make changes.
Make a list and check it twice. Lists will help you stick to your plan. Set spending limits for each person on your list as well as for the other items in your holiday plan. Write your limit on an envelope and keep it handy. When you make a purchase, subtract the amount from the limit and place the receipt in the envelope. When you get to the stores, keep your shopping list in hand. Think carefully about each purchase. Avoid deciding on an item in the spur of the moment.
Decide how you are going to pay for holiday spending. If you plan to use only cash, leave your credit cards at home when shopping. If you plan to use a credit card, choose one to use for all your holiday spending. You can control your spending on one card much more easily than on three or four cards. Use the one with the lowest rate. The Federal Reserve Board suggests getting the most from your credit cards by: paying on time, staying below your credit limit, avoiding unnecessary fees, paying more than the minimum payment and watching for changes in the terms of your account. (www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo)
Save in other ways. Remember it is the thought that counts. Send postcards instead of regular cards. Think about sending electronic greeting cards or eCards. Save money on wrapping paper by making your own. Decorate freezer paper or brown paper bags with your own creative touch. Homemade gifts, whether food, clothing or crafts may be more appreciated than store bought gifts. Give gift certificates for such things as babysitting, car washing, lawn mowing, house cleaning or a particular talent such as photography. Give family keepsakes or pictures as gifts. Use the ads that appear in newspapers and mailboxes to plan your purchases. You can also use the internet to check prices before you head out to the stores. Talk with family and friends about drawing names for gift exchange or setting dollar limits on gift giving. Consider pitch-in dinners, where everyone brings something for the meal. Take advantage of the after-holiday sales and discounts.
Even though this holiday season is already under way, it is not too early to start planning for next year. Planning ahead can help prevent over spending and over extending, so you can enjoy a more worry free holiday.
Everyone at the Rockdale Cooperative Extension wishes you and your families a safe and happy holiday season.
The Rockdale County Cooperative Extension is located at 1400 Parker Rd. Lobby A, Conyers, GA.