Christmas has been in the air for our family since before Thanksgiving this year. I put up our Christmas decorations early so visiting family could share in the holiday spirit. Yesterday I arrived back home from helping my father, who lives oh so far away, decorate his home in all the holiday splendor we could muster up in three very fast days. It was great fun, a flurry of shopping, sorting and putting everything together.
What I didn’t expect to see so early in the season was the shortage of supplies. The set of reindeer decorations I saw two weeks ago are now gone. The white, sparkly glass balls that would catch the lights to twinkle a little brighter – they too are now gone. Either everyone is shopping a little earlier or I am now noticing a retail holiday boom I have been oblivious to in the past.
By now your holiday decorations may up (or not), your shopping done (or not) and you are finding yourself in the countdown of decorating and shopping. I am readying our home for holiday parties, putting photos together for the traditional family yearbook, ordering online gifts for loved ones who live far away and wondering what ever in the world Santa will bring our youngest son who is not all that young any more.
For weeks you have been bombarded with television ads, newspaper ads and holiday merchandise on the store shelves since Halloween. Now as you move about the shopping malls to buy your gifts this season, may I suggest a few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I buying for anyone out of obligation or guilt?
- Would this gift be meaningful to the receiver?
- Is this gift something the recipient would really, really, really (yes 3 really’s) love to have, something that is almost magical, something they would love to have but may not purchase for themselves?
- Do I really need to spend a large amount when a lesser amount would accomplish the same purpose?
Do you know how many gifts are actually re-gifted? I researched this and found that 60-80% of us have re-gifted unwanted gifts, if that is true, were those presents really all that wonderful and were they worth your effort and expense after all?
The retailer wins if the person receiving your gift never uses it, never takes it out of the package or returns it for something different.
Every time you step up to a retail counter this season or purchasing online, you will most likely be offered to open a credit card that will give you some wonderful bargain discount on your purchase or free merchandise or free points and cash to use on future purchases. As tempting as this will be – DON’T DO IT!
This is a strategy to get you to spend just a little more, come back and spend with them again and worse, it is their method of enticing you into some of the highest interest rates out there.
That’s not the worst of it, most retail cards don’t give you 0% interest, so as the New Year approaches along with the payment, you now get to add interest to the cost of your gifts.
Are you feeling tempted to finance your Christmas this year? Have you really considered the ramifications of carrying that extra burden for the next year, next two years or even longer?
When you are offered free interest for the next 3, 6, 12 or even 24 months, you become a slave to that debt. Before you know it, next Christmas will be here and you are still carrying the weight of the year before. This is playing a catch up game that you can’t win.
Take a moment to review your current finance situation and make a list of everything you plan on spending money on this Christmas. Get real, get honest and include every single item, don’t leave anything off. Now go back to your list to see what can be crossed off.
Your list may look something like this:
- Lights and house decorations
- Gas for the trip to Grandma’s house
- Office party gifts
- Holiday extras on your grocery list such as egg nog, turkey, wine, etc
- Holiday party hosting or pot luck items for other parties
- Tips for the mailman and gardner
- Teacher gifts
Once you have done this, go back and take what you have decided you have available to spend for the holiday season and assign amounts to each item.
I am including a sample Holiday Budget from: http://maryorganizes.com/2013/11/holiday-budget-worksheet/Holiday
or Budget Sheet from the blog ‘FunBeingMum’:
to give you an idea of what expenditures you have, the budget you have allowed and the actual amount you spent.
Have you heard about the savings plans available at your bank or Credit Union, commonly referred to as “Christmas Club” or “Holiday Helper”? While this savings plan won’t help you this year, you may want to look into it for next year.
You decide on an amount you would like to deposit or have deducted from your Direct Deposit check and allow it to accumulate in a savings account. The cash won’t be missed because it comes out first before you see your check and you will have a nice little bundle of cash that you can access as early as November 1st for your holidays. You may even save a little extra with the interest you can earn, rather than the interest you would be paying if you had to use your credit cards.
These are just a few ideas to make your holiday season a little more merry and a little less stressful, because this time of year is about friends, family, celebrating spiritual beliefs, Christmas songs on the radio and spreading cheer and kindness.
I have been home one day and already I miss the snow, the winter wonderland and the crisp crunching under my feet as I walked along snowy sidewalks with my dad. My heart absolutely melted as we unwrapped sentimental treasures one by one. We both shed a few tears with remembered memories of traditions now passed and we connected in new ways as we included the old traditions and decorations with the new. Most treasured of all was the sharing of family dinners, homemade gifts and so much love.
As you countdown to the holidays, may your heart be happy and your relationships made strong.
What the holidays are not about is stress, debt, unwanted gifts and lists that never get crossed off. However you spend the holidays this year, don’t let them spend you.