Planning for the holidays

Planning for the holidays

(WPBN/WGTU) -- Ok, so most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are procrastinators in one form or another and that includes being financially

prepared for the holiday season. Because once Halloween hits, it’s all downhill from there - and our bank accounts and credit card balances in January prove it. This year let’s make pact to do a little planning so we can minimize that dreadful feeling of panic in January when we look at our credit card statements. Raise your right hand…

Here are a few tips that will help us get started.

When Should I start planning for the holidays?

Now would be good. Most of us are not ready to begin planning for Christmas in January. In fact, we’re not even ready to begin thinking about it in July because we’re just too busy with things like traveling, boating, and being outdoors in the sunshine. And to even mention the “S” word (Snow!) is taboo, an egregious blunder, a flagrant assault on our summer fun! It’s banned, outlawed, prohibited, unthinkable! You get the picture. So, yes, now would actually be great.

Planning ahead can relieve much of the stress that accompanies a busy and exciting time of the year. When you have extra money in the bank buying gifts can be a much more enjoyable experience and you can get the right gift for that special person instead of feeling overwhelmed by having to spend money you don’t have.

Steps to Get You Started

Step One: Develop a budget – and STICK TO IT. Write a list of everyone on your gift list and determine how much you want to spend on each person. Remember to include costs for cards, postage, giftwrapping, holiday meals out, parties, travel, and any other miscellaneous items. And definitely remember to bring your list when you hit the stores because it is far too easy to make impulsive buys this time of year.

Step Two: Shorten your gift list. Ask yourself if it’s really necessary to buy everyone on your list a present. We’re all trying to save money where we can, and sometimes a getting a gift is another “thing” we need to find space for. Consider sending a thoughtful holiday card or e-mail, or even writing a family newsletter to update everyone about the past year.

Step Three: Get creative! Handmade gifts and personalized coupons can be the most thoughtful gifts. Think about your own talents as well as what the person may need. For example: knit a blanket or sweater; bake some cookies; create a photo album of your favorite pictures (decorate the cover of the album with a colorful title); make a music tape with their favorite tunes; or give them a coupon for a special dinner at your house, baby-sitting time, or even a house cleaning – the list is endless and often much more appreciated because of the thought and care that went into creating the gift.

Step Four: Make some compromises. If you have a large family with lots of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. consider getting the grown-ups together and suggesting that you only purchase gifts for the little ones, and put a dollar and an age limit on it. OR draw names and do a gift exchange so each person only has to buy one gift.

Step Five: Shop early and compare prices. There are great bargains and sales to be found—even during this time of year. Go online and do your research. Comparing vendors and prices will tell you if you’re really getting a deal or getting shafted. So when you do see a great gift for a family member or friend during the year – you can either buy it or wait for a better bargain!

Not only do stores offer special promotions and discount prices throughout the year, this will also save you time during the holidays and help you spread your spending throughout the year. Just don’t forget to put your gifts in a safe place so you know where to find them when it’s time to give them away!

Step Six: Save money. Continue adding to your holiday fund each week. If your budget is tight, find ways to cut back on your daily spending (e.g., no morning latte, bring a lunch to work, give up your weekly movie, etc.), and put that extra cash toward gifts.

Step Seven: Donate more than cash. Contact your favorite local charity and see if they take donations in other forms than just cash (e.g., canned goods, clothing, furniture, books, etc.).

With a little forethought, planning and execution we can make this holiday season a real joy.