Two weeks until the big day….Christmas Day! Although it is 70 degrees here in Alabama, the trees are lit and the fake snow is falling at the shopping malls. No matter what aspect of the season you and your family celebrate, it is easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season. Everyone feels a little more generous during the month of December. However, don’t let your generosity put you in financial straits. There are plenty of opportunities at this time of year to expand your generosity in non-monetary ways. Those shopping lists can get out of hand and many well-wishers will end up spending much more than they intended. In a perfect world, every one of us would set aside a little money each month so that the financial burden of the season would be a lot easier. Let’s face it, most Americans simply don’t have the income to do this or unexpected expenses throughout the year spoil their best-laid savings plans.
Have a Budget Planned
It is best to have a plan when attacking the holiday season. First, you should determine a budget. My theory is you need a three topic list for your budget; gifts, food and charity. Before you spend any money sit down and make your lists. Who are you buying gifts for? What are affordable and appropriate gifts to give? Can you afford to host any Holiday gatherings with friends or extended family? If so, how much extra food will I need to buy? Certainly, don’t forget the real spirit of the season – charitable gifts. Choose something you believe in to support. You may only afford to be able to allocate your time as a gift to charity. Once you have determined what you will need to spend your money on, determine the amount that you can afford to spend over and above your normal monthly expenses. It is never a good idea to skip necessary monthly expenses to purchase holiday items. After you decide on the appropriate amount that you need to meet your budget, decide how much you will allocate to each topic, gifts, food and charity.
Shop with Cash
Shopping with cash is the best way to ensure that you don’t blow your budget. It is far too easy to purchase something extra or spend a little more when you rely on credit cards. Learn to say no to gifts that are too extravagant or outside of your budget. Don’t use this as a time to shop for yourself. Remember, Christmas is about giving! Shopping early to get sales and find items at the best prices is also a good way to trim expense. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy something. This usually results in paying more than you planned.
Even a carefully crafted Holiday budget can go off the rails. Whether you have something unexpected happen during the season like a medical issue or job loss or you are simply not disciplined enough to stick to a budget. Post holiday expenses can begin to pile up after the ringing of the New Year.
If you find yourself with additional bills that are putting a financial strain on you and your family please come or call to talk with one of our attorneys about how we can help you relieve that financial burden.
Amy K Tanner is a shareholder in several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She focuses primarily on consumer bankruptcy law in the Huntsville and Decatur offices.Read her full bio here.