It’s almost here! And there’s no turning back, the holiday season is upon us once again. Retailers and advertisers know it, your friends, family and especially children are keenly aware of what the next nine weeks is expected to bring. So hold it there for just a moment! STOP! What was that key word just mentioned? “Expected.” So first things first, let’s talk about holiday expectations.
As you are reading this, you may realize that you just may fall into one of two categories of shoppers – the planners or the procrastinators. Regardless of such labeling, one thing is certain; you will not survive the holidays financially without a well thought out and realistic plan. It may sound like a painful process to some – it’s really not – but what would you rather have; burdens to greet you in 2013 or a sense of accomplishment and relief? We will assume the latter.
Planning is about shaping expectations on both sides; for the giver and also for the recipient. The giver must define boundaries and set limits and then use those findings to make the recipient aware of what can be expected. So what happens if you have always done things the other way around – so that the recipient was in charge of shaping expectations? Well, starting anew is a likely strategy. As relationships change overtime, new expectations can be talked about, developed and implemented. It’s that simple, let’s not add or take away from this idea. Now it’s time to get practical and actually develop your holiday spending plan.
First Things First!Start by first examining your holiday priorities; figure out what is most important to you. Instead of spending your hard-earned money on something because it is a holiday tradition, make sure it is a holiday tradition that is important to you and your family. Before you start setting limits, first ask yourself these questions:
Which holiday activities do I enjoy most?
What holiday traditions bring the most joy?
What motivates my holiday spending?
Try, or better yet – DO NOT, spend out of habit, obligation or guilt.
As this point, use the attached Cost of our Happy Holiday worksheet to make a list of holiday gift giving expectations – don’t forget to check it twice!
Step Two – Determine Your Spending Limit & Know Your Products
Use your list to set a limit for what you will spend on each category, or better yet, for each purchase. When completed, add these figures to determine your holiday spending limit. And now the moment of truth! What is the maximum you will spend on holiday expenses this year? Be realistic about limits and make sure that whatever you elect to spend will not exceed what you can afford. Moreover, it’s futile to craft a spending plan and not be aware of market prices, retailer ads and deals around town. So do a little research and understand how you will match your purchase dollars with items for sale (clip, cut and stack coupons for best results!).
The third thing: A Necessary Evil! Track Your Expenses
As you pay for holiday purchases this year, track your expenses to ensure that you stay within established spending limits. Take your worksheet with you when you go shopping. Keep a small notebook with you to track all of your holiday expenses. This is the single most important thing you can do to stay true to your priorities and objectives. You can use this information to determine next year’s holiday spending plan and then establish a monthly allotment or transfer into your savings account for the next holiday go around.
Here are some alternative gift-giving options you may want to consider:
- Use the time and talents of your entire family in gift alternatives. Make or bake stuff! Decorate and serve. Volunteer as a family to help your neighbors, friends and relatives. You could even make a coupon and give it as a present, redeemable for babysitting, lawn, etc.
- Use Google and You Tube to find live instructions on making different homemade craft items that your recipients may consider meaningful and symbolic.
- Giving of your time and attention; have a night out, visit the park – give the things that truly matter
Success will follow if you follow through!
1. Holiday Budget Calculator
2. Holiday Budget Worksheet
About the author…
Stacy Livingstone-Hoyte, AFC™ has served at the Fleet & Family Support Center, Millington, TN as a Financial Counselor since Nov 2009. She conducts one-on-one sessions, Command training, group workshops and other efforts designed to meet the “Mission Readiness” goal of the U.S. Armed Forces. 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.