Spend less at Christmas and smile more in January

When you hear the Stan Rogers’ song “At Last, I’m Ready for Christmas,” do you wish you didn’t relate so much to the lyrics? The song tells the tale of a couple who “said this year we’d keep things simple, then did our usual spree.”

Setting a budget for the holidays is the easy part. Sticking to it is more difficult. Here are some tips for staying on track.

Set limits – There are guidelines for what your budget should be. My advice is to ignore them. The amount you choose to spend is unique to you, your family, your goals, and your circumstances. Decide who will get gifts and how much of your gift budget you’ll g ive to each recipient. Don’t forget to include the small stuff like gift wrap, shipping costs and gas for shopping trips. Write down the amounts to keep yourself accountable.

Consider group gifts – Consider gifts for families, instead of individual gifts for each member. Our whole family loves trivia games, for example, so those are great options for us for a family gift.

Be creative – Don’t be afraid to propose a different strategy with your loved ones – and have that conversation well before the holidays. Our family agreed one Christmas to exchange only gifts we made ourselves. It was one of our most fun, memorable, and budget-friendly holidays ever. That inspired us to continue to exchange simpler and fewer gifts – often homemade ones.

Start saving – Look closely at your discretionary expenses and decide what you can go without for a couple of months, or have less often all the time. Reducing meals out and impulse buying, for instance, can add up quickly.

Look for sales – For new items, watch for sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consider consignment and thrift stores for lightly used items to save money and help the environment.

Know your shopping style – While shopping early may off er more deals, if you love the festive atmosphere during the last couple of weeks before Christmas, set aside a portion of your budget and hold off on buying some things on your list until then. Don’t do your whole list early, otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself buying “just a few extras,” and going over budget.

Don’t spend what you don’t have – Buy with cash, if possible. If you must use a credit card, charge no more than you can pay off by the next payment’s due date.

Setting a realistic budget and sticking to it means you won’t have holiday remorse in January. Unlike the character in Stan Rogers’ song, you can protect yourself from the “usual spree,” and still have a wonderful holiday season.

This article originally appeared in The Masthead News Volume 31 Number 11 November 2nd 2022

Bob Joyce, CPA, CA, CFP®

Bob Joyce

Bob is a CPA and CFP professional. As a CPA, Bob provided tax and accounting services to individuals and corporations before joining a large full-service wealth management firm. With almost 50 years of experience advising clients in the fields of estate, tax, and financial planning, and a genuine desire to understand and help clients, makes Bob distinctively qualified to help you achieve your personal financial goals and objectives.

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