The holiday season is fast approaching, and while this time of year can be full of joyous occasions with family and friends, it can also do a number on our pocketbooks as well. The additional costs of entertaining and gift giving can be challenging to manage, so keeping an eye on your bottom line is important in order to avoid January blues when your statements arrive.
Here are a few helpful steps that can keep you in the black this year:
- Make a list…and check it twice. Plan your gift giving early by writing an exhaustive list of each person you need to buy for. This includes everyone from your mother to your child’s teacher. If you intend to give a gift, no matter how insignificant, add it to the list to make sure you have a comprehensive budget. Allot a dollar value to each recipient and stick to it! Don’t give in to the urge to splurge a little more on a great deal. Most importantly, once you’ve made a purchase, cross that person off your list! Don’t be tempted to put little “extras” with your presents that can throw your budget out of line!
- Plan your menus. The groceries stores are chaos around the holidays, and their marketing teams are working hard to free you of your hard earned cash. Don’t get sucked in by the beautiful displays and pre-made platters. Write out your grocery list ahead of time and don’t deviate from your plan. Remember that there’s always a way to entertain in style – regardless of your budget. Consider an after dinner cocktail party where only appetizers are required, or even a festive brunch to keep the food and beverage prices under control.
- Shop with cash. There’s a reason your grandmother had wads of cash hidden under the mattress. Once upon a time, the cash you had on hand was your only option when you needed to make a purchase. And while times have certainly changed, the simplicity of using cash has not. Set aside the amount of cash you wish to spend on your gifts and/or entertaining budgets, and draw from that instead of pulling out your plastic. It’s a great way to stay on budget and avoid impulse buys. What’s more, it keeps you out of debt and allows you to enjoy your celebrations without regret.
- Give yourself a break. If, despite your best efforts, you do end up over budget and in debt, don’t stress about it. Instead, speak to a professional about how to manage your finances and get control of your cash flow. Having a solid plan to pay down obligations and get back on track is key to ensuring your financial security going forward.