Balance Your Holiday Spending

Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC®, is an experienced Financial Counselor who has worked extensively with U.S. Armed Forces members and families. She is a recent volunteer blogger for Navynavstress.com, but contributed previously while serving at the Fleet and Family Support Center, Millington, Tenn. Prior to government service, she worked as a Financial Services Representative for several brokerage and insurance firms. As a military spouse, Ms. Livingstone-Hoyte knows firsthand of the financial challenges and opportunities that face military families across the globe. To that end, she embraces a steadfast belief that financial success can be simple, just not easy.

To be prepared is half the victory.” – Miguel De Cervantes

 Tis’ the season… the decadent smells, the embrace and comfort of friends and family, boxed surprises and gasps of excitement! But before you dedicate yourselves to holiday festivities, do your due dilligence and address the matter of personal finances. What is your holiday financial plan?

First you write down your goal, your second job is to break down your goal into a series of steps, beginning with the steps which are absurdly easy.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

Develop your plan. Set your goals to be both qualitative and quantative and start with something as simple as stating that a total holiday budget for gifts and related expenses will be $1,000. With this in mind, evaluate where you are financially. Do you already have funds set aside, or are you already near your goal? If you plan on using credit, ensure that you have the funds set aside to pay in full before you make your purchases, or pay immediately after purchase. This type of accountability will not only tame uncontrolled holiday splurging, but will also reduce stress.

Balance your expectations. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest challenges to financing the holidays. It is important to share your expectations with whom you celebrate the holidays so that they recognize your limitations to help guard against feeling overburdened with unrealistic expenses, subsequent disappointments, and worst of all, unplanned debt. You can do this in a number of ways – a sitdown chat with those involved  about your planned total holiday budget or by creating affordable gifting pools, such as a white elephant gift exchange. Travel plans, accomodations and the like are other areas to address, as well.

Maintain your checks and balances! Adhering to a plan can bring additional challenges that can test your resolve – balancing your wants versus needs. Do your best to not give into  the “I deserve just this one more item” rationale, or the “it’s just money” line. To keep yourself in check and balance, try these simple suggestions:

  1. Write down your goals and plans.
  2. Do your homework – look for price matching opportunities, coupons, deals, etc.
  3. Make your shopping list, and check it twice.
  4. Time and target your buys to get the best deals.
  5. Track your spending, progress and failures.
  6. Consider homemade gifts or gifts of time.
  7. Remember your plan and your limits.

All of these tips can help you firmly ground yourself in the reality of the holidays and reward yourself with reduced stress and increased feelings of accomplishment. So, before you commit your hard-earned dollars, take care of these fundamentals first: build your emergency cash reserves and budget your interests to secure your household before additional spending is done. Consider this remorseful soul’s words of wisdom:

If I had known
There would be this woe
Then I would have planned
Oh forgive me so!

Resources:
1. Holiday Budget Calculator
2. Holiday Budget Worksheet

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