By John G. Merna
HOLIDAY SEASON FINANCES
The holiday season in Hampton Roads are beautiful. Virginia Beach and Newport News both offer many events and festivities in celebration of this bustling time of the year. But from a financial point of view, the financial storm season is just starting and the damage to your account balances could be devastating. No sooner does summer vacation end is it time to get the kids ready to go back to school. Before you know it, the holiday season is upon us starting with Halloween sling-shotting our wallets into Thanksgiving, Christmas and News Years. The holidays are wonderful but the holiday season is expensive if “keeping up” is the goal rather than actual enjoyment. Decorations, entertaining, parties and gift giving will all add considerable strain to our financial resources.
Here are some tips for surviving the Financial Storm Season
1) Enjoy your home life with close friends and family. It doesn’t cost much to have a wonderful and fulfilling time at home during any of the holidays. With all of the running and long work hours, staying at home is a great way to save money and appreciate what it is you work so hard to have. Not exciting? Maybe you need to get creative!
2) Make lists of the things you will be participating in over the holiday season and budget for them. Things like gift lists, parties, school and church events… write them out. It’s the last minute office party gift and the impulsive buying that will increase your credit card debt if you are not careful. Resist the very natural tendency to let spending become impulsive – especially this time of year!
3) Set a budget and get prepaid credit cards for nights out, gifts and seasonal purchases. Use them for gives and when the budget is spent, the spending is done. At least this way you will have an idea of what you wish to spend beforehand. Being aware of what you are spending will save you hundreds over the course of the next few months.
4) Reuse what you have! No one but you will know if your seasonal decorations were used last year or the year before? What is more, people don’t notice or care. Keep the purchasing of new decorations to an absolute minimum and you will save yourself hundreds of dollars. Americans will spend $8 Billion this year alone in Halloween Candy, Decorations and Costumes! Buy one less outfit for holiday parties and save yourself the cost of yet another dress you will only wear once. Reuse what you have and your checking account balance won’t be so scary to check on Monday when you have to get groceries.
5) Gift giving is great but if you will regret the bills as they come rolling in, what did you really give? A few minutes of “oooo and ah” is nice when your $200 gift is being opened but when you are paying back $1,000 in principal, interest, penalty and late fees for the next five years, you realize maybe a hot cocoa and good conversation is a better way to impress your boss. Or… you could just use cash for an inexpensive, simple and creative gift you will not pay for five times over.
6) Less is more. In truth, the holidays are not about singing door skeletons, expensive gifts or lavish spreads of food. Chances are you will remember the kid’s costumes, seeing Aunt Matilda one last time before she passes away or the cozy feel of the living room on Christmas Eve after hustling around for two weeks. You probably don’t remember actual gifts and the stuff surrounding the holidays and neither do your loved ones. They will remember something that you make special and “special” can’t be bought for any price no matter what the package says.
7) Choose quality over quantity! Give one great memorable gift to your child this year. Have one great memorable get-together with friends. Do one remarkably memorable thing and you will remember your least expensive holiday as the best one… guaranteed! Think about it. Does any of the drives through Christmas lights stand out over another? Does another fruit cake at your sister’s house stand out? Or for you like most of us, do all the years blur together? This year, make a dish you have never made before, take the family to a new destination, write a letter to every special person in your life. Make a memory this year and save money, time and stress. Strive for memorable.
It’s no secret the holiday season is upon us. The stores remind us every moment it’s time to buy stuff. You can weather the financial storm that comes with the season and come out ahead when many people are starting the new year with more debt than they had before. That ironically, is something that everyone seems to remember. The bills.