After the holiday cheer has faded, will you feel like a holiday chump? In the new year, some households may reel after opening their credit card statements.
So is there still time to both enjoy the holidays and be fiscally responsible? As I flip the wall calendar to December, as usual, I have not started Christmas shopping. But, yes, we still have time to adopt some financial strategy with three execution tips: prepare, plan, present.
Prepare: In the seasonal excitement, it can be easy to let our guards down to unbudgeted spending. If you still have time, talk to your friends and family, set expectations (gift/no gift), be creative, and be honest. It is not tired advice to make a list of who you are shopping for, and designate a total budget and a per person budget. In need of quick cash for gift-buying? Clean out your closet and attic and garage and sell some unneeded stuff on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace or at a yard sale.
Plan: I am grateful that my spouse is a savvy shopper. Once she has her list, she plans her shopping strategy to local stores, online stores, discounts, shipping costs, etc. She always makes sure that a vendor has a good return policy. She utilizes websites such as joinhoney.com and Ebates.com for coupons, rebates and comparing discounted prices. Nerdwallet.com offers some additional advice for online deals: “Type in exactly what you are looking for on Bing, Chrome, Firefox … use different search engines as they all support some brand name shops, clear your cookies and extensions often.”
Support local sellers when you are looking for a personalized gift such as art, craft jewelry, soaps, etc. It makes a more thoughtful gift. If you expended your physical energy on Black Friday, sit down at your digital device for Cyber Monday’s online promotions. Remember to do your online gift purchasing through a site that you are familiar with and trust. Never open a link unless it is from a trusted source. When in doubt — don’t.
Present (adjective and noun): Spending time with family and friends is the highlight of the holiday season, along with helping others. Host a potluck holiday party to celebrate with friends or family instead of gift exchanges. Give experiences such as theater or concert tickets, or a DIY family camping night with a movie in your backyard. Donate to a charity in honor of family and friends. Send a card announcing the gift.
Having sensible financial boundaries around the holidays won’t stifle the spirit but enhance it. I hope you enjoy your holiday season and remember what truly matters. Happy holidays!
This article was originally featured in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Paul Fain is a certified financial planner and president of Asset Planning Corp., a financial planning and investment management firm based in Knoxville. To get in touch with Paul, click here.